Monday, Jan. 8, 2001 | 3:36 a.m.
Oddsmakers have installed a 32-year-old U.S. Army Intelligence officer as the favorite to win the latest reality-based CBS series "Survivor."
The Sahara has Kel Gleason as a 6-1 favorite, while the Stardust hotel-casino down the Strip is listing him at 4-1 to win the televised contest in the Australian outback.
"We made Kel Gleason the slight favorite because he's an intelligence officer in the Army and an outdoor enthusiast," said Andy DeLuca, sports book manager at the Sahara hotel-casino. "He also has a degree in communications so we thought he had a lot of good attributes."
Both sports books have Kentucky teacher Rodger Bingham as the longshot among the 16 contestants at 100-1.
"He's not as much of an outdoor person as the others," DeLuca said. "And he's one of two people who are married, which we felt would be a distraction."
The odds - meaning that for every $1 bet, one could win $100 if Bingham were the lone survivor - are only hypothetical because state law prohibits wagers on events in which the outcome already is known, and CBS, unlike the oddsmakers, knows how this contest ends.
While the propositions are for entertainment purposes only, that doesn't make them any less serious, said Bob Scucci, assistant manager at the Stardust race and sports book.
"We make these true to form," he said. "We made it similar to any other event that has 16 teams."
Sports books managers throughout the city plan to keep their big screens tuned to CBS after the Super Bowl game Jan. 28.
"It's such a popular show and since it's kicking off the season right after the Super Bowl, we're going to leave it on," DeLuca said. "A lot of tourists come in and they get a kick out of it. People like to talk about it."
The Sahara has Debb Eaton, a 45-year-old corrections officer from New Hampshire as its second favorite at 7-1, and the Stardust likes Nick Brown, a 23-year-old Harvard law student at 5-1.
The Sahara has Brown listed at 8-1 along with Alicia Calaway and Maralyn Hershey. The Stardust has Colby Donaldson and Michael Skupin at 8-1.
While this is the first time the Sahara has posted odds on "Survivor," the sports book has handicapped such events as the Emmys and the presidential race, DeLuca said.
"I was wrong, I had (Al) Gore as the favorite," he said.
Setting odds on the Emmys or "Survivor" is sheer entertainment, said John Avello, director of the race and sports books for Bally's and Paris hotel-casinos.
"I'm in the entertainment business, not only for our guests but for the entire country," he said. "In true oddsmaking, when you take wagers, you try to make a book to bet so you get equal balance on all the players."
But the odds aren't always right, as any savvy gambler can attest. Las Vegas Hilton hotel-casino odds on the first "Survivor" show favored Susan Hawk at 2-1, while former Las Vegan Kelly Wiglesworth was second at 5-2 and the ultimate winner, Richard Hatch, was 3-1.