Unlv Off The Board In Las Vegas

Posted: March 25, 1987

The best thing that happened to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas basketball team this week was the worst thing that could happen to Las Vegas.

Or, more specifically, UNLV's ascent to the Final Four means a real

financial loss for the gambling capital of America.

"On the one hand, the whole town is going crazy for the team. Everyone is excited," said Keith Glantz, director of the Palace Station race and sports book. "On the other hand, this isn't exactly helping the betting and sports- book industry. I'm going to lose a lot of handle."

Glantz's loss of handle - the amount wagered on a particular event - comes about because of a Nevada law barring betting or oddsmaking on games involving teams from the state. As long as UNLV stays alive in the NCAA tournament (which it did Sunday by coming from 19 points behind to knock off Iowa, 84-81), no bets may be placed on its games. And no bets may be placed on any one team to win the entire tournament because, in effect, that would mean betting against UNLV.

Gamblers still can wager on the other Final Four matchup, between Syracuse and Providence. But in Nevada, the only area in the country that permits legalized sports wagering, the ban on betting the game between UNLV and Indiana translates to an anticipated loss of $5 million in handle, or $150,000 in profit for Las Vegas' five major sports bookmakers, according to Glantz.

And, if UNLV gets into the championship game, the loss to legal bookies figures to be triple that amount.

In recent years, the NCAA tournament - buoyed by regional favorites and a strong television package - has emerged as one of the most popular items for sports fans to bet on.

"It still doesn't compare to king football," said Russ Culver, oddsmaker for the Bally Grand in Las Vegas. "We'll book $100 million on the Super Bowl. I'd compare the Final Four to a good Monday night football game or an average

college bowl game. But it's growing every year - except last year. And a good matchup - say, a Big 10 team against a popular West Coast team - brings out the bettors."

Last year's championship matchup - Louisville versus Duke - garnered little interest in Las Vegas and drew just $2 million in bets. The two previous championship games - Villanova versus Georgetown in 1985 and Houston versus Georgetown in 1984 - "showed how popular college basketball has become," Glantz said.

Of course, just because people can't bet legally on the game doesn't mean no one is betting. Glantz said illegal bookies in Las Vegas were "having a field day" with Saturday's UNLV-Indiana matchup.

Glantz and Culver posted UNLV as a four-point favorite in the odds they

sent to newspapers that subscribe to their oddsmaking service. But in Vegas, where everyone wants to bet on the home team, the illegal bookies are listing UNLV as eight-point favorites.

"They could list them as 20-point favorites," Glantz said, "and people here would lay the money, anyway."

Locally, the street odds have UNLV over Indiana by four points and Syracuse over Providence by 2 1/2 points, according to a Philadelphia-area bookie who asked to be referred to only as "Gary."

Gary said the Nevada ban against betting on UNLV games has had no effect on local bookies. "It's not exactly like my clients would fly out to Vegas to bet, anyway," he said. "Besides, around here the interest isn't so much on that game. There's more interest on the Providence-Syracuse game. People here know those teams because they play some games locally.

"Actually, I'm hoping Indiana beats Las Vegas," he said. "I think there would be a lot more action here on Indiana."

In Las Vegas, those who make their living from gambling have mixed

emotions.

"If Indiana wins, we get to book the game, and that means money," Culver said. "But we book so many events a year that losing this one won't kill us. We're not that money-hungry. There's a lot at stake here in terms of community pride.

"Besides," he added, "if UNLV gets into the final, I'm going to the game."

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