Before the Conference Championship games were played Sunday, most Las Vegas bookmakers had a feeling the matchup between the Patriots-Giants would have New England being a 4½ to 5-point favorite for the Super Bowl.
But just as Lawrence Tynes was kicking his game winning overtime field goal – the second time he’s done it in a championship game – the LVH Super Book hung the Patriots minus-3, which came as a shockingly low number to a few.
Other books like the South Point and Station Casinos opened the Patriots at -3½-flat, but within minutes the line came tumbling down to -3. MGM Resorts went from -3½ to -3½ (EV) with hopes they won’t ever go to the key number -3. It’s a worst case scenario in a game of this magnitude – the number lands on 3 and they find themselves bouncing on and off.
It’s apparent what we witnessed Sunday had a major bearing on what the Super Bowl line would open.
"We just felt the Giants’ aggressive play on both sides of the ball, especially their strong defensive play, was more impressive than the Patriots play, not only on Sunday, but against all quality competition this season," said LVH executive director Jay Kornegay.
The Giants battled all game long against one of the league’s top defenses in their 20-17 win at San Francisco while the Patriots found themselves very fortunate to come out with a 23-20 home victory over the Ravens. The Giants have had the most rapid increase in their power rating the last five weeks.
Despite the game being on a key number right now, Kornegay said his booking strategy for a game of this magnitude will be vastly different from any of the playoff or regular season games played this season.
"We’re not going to settle into a number right now," said Kornegay. "We’ll probably have a larger extension to risk at a certain number as we get closer to the game, but early on we’ll let the money move us quicker until we find what the right number is whether that means 3, 2½ or 3½."
Three is a dangerous number to play with and most sports books are probably hoping the game runs one way or another to avoid the most popular margin of victory in pro football. The five year average of all NFL games shows 14.6% landing on 3, not including both of Sunday’s Championships which were both won by 3-point margins.
Should the sports books find themselves jumping back and forth around 3 and the favored team happened to win by that number, it’ll be a rough decision for the house.
The hope for most sports books is that the "what we saw last" mentality wears off and that favored team gets back up to -3½, maybe even -4 before the massive onslaught of action begins on the final weekend.
It was just a year ago when we saw a steady -3 last throughout with the favored Packers beating the Steelers 31-25. Before that, the last -3 we saw in the Super Bowl was the Ravens beating the Giants 34-7 after the 2001 season.
Regardless of what the number settles on, Kornegay expects handle to be great for this game.
"With these two teams, I would expect the handle to match last season’s ($87 million)," said Kornegay.
Last year’s Super Bowl saw a net win of only $724,176 across the entire state for a low 0.8% that left many major sports books as losers for the day, something they hope doesn’t reoccur this season.
They definitely don’t want a repeat the 2008 Super Bowl that saw the Giants win straight-up as 12-point underdogs against the Patriots. That was the worst Super Bowl in Nevada history with a loss of $2.57 million (-2.8%).
That Super Bowl loss was spurred by the majority of small money piling up on a deflated money-line price with the underdog. Despite getting no value on the money-line, bettors still lined up to bet the Giants to win straight-up and the books couldn’t make up to the 3-to-1 payouts.
This is the only game of the year where sharp money means very little. The movement we saw Sunday night when the line was first posted was dictated by large money with lower limits. But once the days start counting down to Feb. 5, all the little $20 bets will account for much more than a single $20,000 wager from a wise guy.
The all-time record for Super Bowl handle was in 2006 when a booming economy sent $94.5 million in wagers through Nevada sports book windows. The Steelers-Seahawks game didn’t provide the most glamorous matchup in Super Bowl history, but cash was flowing through Vegas from all neighborhoods at that time like never before.
If Nevada is able to match last year’s great Packers-Steelers matchup as Kornegay says is possible, than it should be considered a success.
Now the hard part is winning and trying to match the all-time win record, which was in 2005 when books held 17% with $15.4 million in win. That was a bookmakers dream where the favored Patriots (-7) won 24-21, but didn’t cover against the Eagles and the game stayed UNDER (46 ½).
Books Do Well
Between banking conference future wagers and beginning Sunday with the best possible scenario in the AFC Championship game, the Las Vegas sports books did well.
It was a bookmaker’s dream with the favored Patriots (-7) winning 23-20, but not covering against the Ravens. The dream got even better when the game stayed UNDER the total (49).
There was still some leftover risk going into the late game and the Giants having the edge from public play made it the worst possible decision. However, with the game staying UNDER the total (41), it made the best out of a possible bad situation.
"We did very well in the early games, but the bettors got some of it back late with the Giants," said South Point sports book director Bert Osborne. "It didn’t help matters that 7-point teaser went 8-0 on the day and 6-point teasers went 7-1."
Imagine that, if you had just gone to the betting window and said let me tease every side and total 7-points, you would have walked away a winner as every game stayed within the boundaries of the spread.
Last season in the championship round, teasers were 7-1, which may be why some sports books don’t offer teasers in the playoffs.
South Point Active
I spent Sunday afternoon watching and betting the games at the South Point sports book and my jaw dropped when I noticed they had 12 windows exclusively open for sports betting.
It’s the only all sports book in town that has a race book with each in it’s own separate part of the casino, which makes it nice, but that type of service in this era of companies squeezing every cent in their labor force left me in amazement.
Most other sports books in town have had to downsize their labor force considerably. From an economic standpoint, it’s understandable on their end because the labor expense is really the only expenditure they can have a real grip on.
Most of you may have noticed more and more race and sports books have gone to having multi-task windows that take both pari-mutual horse and sports wagers. That all works nice when the time of day is slow, but at key moments such as when a race is going off and games are kicking or tipping off simultaneously, both race and sports bettors sometimes get shut out.
It’s easy for the book to say, "You’ve had all day to bet this race or that game," but at some point a depleted race and sports book staff – which is the case almost everywhere in town – should have cause for concern by upper management who rarely see those shut out moments.
The small percentage of guests who call are brushed off as constant complainers. Those who don’t complain just choose to go elsewhere and are never heard from again.
This is why a tip of the cap and a salute goes out to Bert Osborne and his staff for never getting anyone shut out and for Michael Gaughan ensuring that a lack of labor will never cost him a guest.
It’s Super at Clarion
Last season Brian Blessing and Sports Book Radio hosted a Super Bowl party at the NASCAR Café that people are still talking about a year later. It was awesome!
NASCAR Café is now closed, but the manager of those great events, Randy Goldich, has moved on to the Clarion on Convention Center Drive and he’s providing an even better party this year.
For a mere $60, your entry includes an open bar from 1 p.m. on and non-stop food such as the all-you-can-eat ribs, beef, wings, hot dogs and more. Everyone will be given a free commemorative t-shirt upon entry and they’ll be giving away all kinds of prizes throughout the game such as a 42" plasma TV.
The entire party will be taking place inside the Star Theatre at the Clarion. So go hang out with Brian and Randy and let them show you a great time on Super Bowl Sunday, or as they have to call it, "The Big Game Bash."
That way the NFL lawyers don’t get angry with them. To make reservations, call Randy at (702) 238-8539.
More Brits Coming
When William Hill stepped foot onto U.S. soil, you knew it wouldn’t be very long until their main rival in the U.K., Ladbrokes, would make a some kind of counter move.
Last week Ladbrokes made that move by purchasing 65% of Stadium Technologies, a Las Vegas based software company that supplies several Nevada sports books with their product, including a few of the soon-to-be William Hill sports books.
William Hill purchased American Wagering, which operates the Leroy’s chain of books, and Cal-Neva sports books for $39 million last April. Shortly after, William Hill also bought the Brandywine operation for $15 million, the company that runs the Lucky’s sports books.
Part of the allure with American Wagering is that in addition to getting 72 Leroy’s betting shops, they also get Computerized Bookmaking System (CBS), a subsidiary of American Wagering whose software is operating under contract in the majority of Nevada’s sports books.
The handful of sports books that don’t use CBS are Station Casinos, Golden Nugget, Cantor Gaming, Cal-Neva and Lucky’s sports books, which also includes Delaware.
Rumors are also swirling that a couple of other sports books currently using the CBS system will soon be switching to the Stadium Technologies system.
Station Casinos operates their own in-house betting system, while all the others who don’t use CBS are using Stadium Technologies equipment. This means that several William Hill books will now be serviced by their main competitor, Ladbrokes, in an interesting twist that they’re likely not too excited about.
Meanwhile, Ladbrokes couldn’t be happier. They get their foot into the U.S. market for an initial cost of $3 million compared to the $54 million William Hill paid and can just wait and see how the cards unfold.
Sports may come later than other casino online games, but companies like Cantor, William Hill and Ladbrokes all have had software in place and running effectively in the U.K. In each case, revenues soared through the roof when introduced.
If Irish bookmaker Paddy Power finds a way to get their software here, the possibilities are intriguing
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