Vegas luxury boxes offer it all: plush chairs, big TVs, and bets to boot


In the game of one-upsmanship, Las Vegas takes a back seat to no one. So while Sin City may still be a few years away from landing a pro sports team, it already offers one of the most select of sports experiences - a seat in a luxury box to watch your favorite team. Except in this case, there's an extra attraction, the opportunity to wager on the game.

The MGM Grand casino has four so-called Skyboxes in its race and sports book, comfy perches that approximate those exclusive chi-chi suites at big-time stadiums and arenas.

The MGM Grand's boxes, decorated in no-nonsense macho dark brown and beige, sit a level above the sports book with plush easy chair and sofa seating, marble-top tables and a bird's-eye view of the sports book's giant screen TVs that feature a constant stream of sports and horse races.

Not surprisingly when there's a major event - such as the NCAA basketball tournament or the Super Bowl or a Triple Crown race - those boxes are reserved for "casino guests," which is Vegas-speak for high-rollers. But during slower times, anyone can make arrangements for the Skyboxes through the MGM Grand's VIP services department with a guarantee of spending a minimum of $250 in food and beverage. Since the boxes accommodate eight to 10 people, the food charge could work out to a reasonable expense for a group of friends.

The sports book has 36 60-inch plasma TVs, a handful of smaller televisions, six electronic display boards and, of course, 17 betting counters.

With Opening Day looming, some Vegas oddsmakers are making the Chicago White Sox favorites to repeat as world champions while others lean toward the New York Yankees.

At Harrah's Entertainment Vegas casinos, which include Caesars Palace, Harrah's, Rio and others, the White Sox were 5-2 to win the World Series, as of yesterday. Meanwhile, at MGM Mirage casinos, which include the Bellagio, Mirage, MGM Grand and others, the Yankees were 7-2 favorites.

Las Vegas apparently loves the idea of a Subway Series. The Yankees were 3-1 and the Mets 9-2 to win the world title, and the wager on the Yankees-Mets to be the winningest two-team combination during the regular season was a prohibitive 1-5 at Harrah's Entertainment sports books.

The Orioles were listed at 70-1 and the Nationals were 40-1 to win the World Series at Harrah's Vegas casinos and at the MGM Mirage sports books, the Orioles were 60-1 and the Nationals 45-1.

Wagers can even be placed on whom will hit the most home runs, win the most games or what team Barry Bonds will hit career homer No. 715 against, among other bits of baseball exotica.

The Yankees' Alex Rodriguez was 9-2 to be the home run king, Toronto pitcher Roy Halladay was 4-1 to notch the most victories and Arizona was 2-1 to surrender the milestone homer to Bonds, at Harrah's casinos.

Anne Arundel County accountant Steve Dannenmann has gone Hollywood, literally. Dannenmann, who finished second in last year's World Series of Poker main event, was in Los Angeles last weekend playing in a celebrity charity poker tournament at the Playboy Mansion.

The tournament, which benefited the Urban Health Institute, was attended by Hollywood celebrities and poker luminaries, such as L.A. Lakers owner Jerry Buss, actress Shannon Elizabeth and card pros Daniel Negreanu and Cyndy Violette, all of whom ponied up $1,500 each to play. The winner of the speed tournament, where the minimum bets are rapidly raised, was actor Don Cheadle, who does those sternly serious NFL commercials.

Dannenmann, who still runs his tax preparation business in Glen Burnie, didn't do quite as well at the Playboy estate as he did in the WSOP where he won $4.25 million.

"I busted out on the third hand," Dannenmann said laughing. His pair of 10s was bested by three fives. "I wasn't interested in playing poker; I wanted to hang out."

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