Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Superbowl Betting - it's always best to be the house, regardless what this story says

Casinos Edgy
As Wagering
Tilts to Giants

This Sunday's Super Bowl might become the most heavily wagered one ever. And unless more bettors start taking the New England Patriots, it may be a costly one for casinos.

Super Bowl XLII may reach $100 million in legal betting in Las Vegas for the first time, experts say, a figure that is a fraction of the estimated $10 billion that will be wagered world-wide, according to R.J. Bell, president of the sports-gambling information site The combination of the Patriots' seeking a perfect record and the New York Giants representing the nation's largest city is causing heightened interest.

But too much of that interest, at least as far as Vegas is concerned, is in the underdog Giants. Sports books prefer an even amount of betting on both teams to mitigate risk, because they make an additional amount (called vigorish) on losing bets. Even a 60/40 split would be reasonable, said Jay Kornegay, executive director of the Race and Sports SuperBook at the Las Vegas Hilton. Too much money on one side, though, exposes them to significant losses if the public's team wins.

As of yesterday, 75% of the wagered money at the Hilton was on the Giants. "There's definitely concern," Mr. Kornegay said. "If you find any Patriots fans, make sure to send them our way."

The reason for the lack of belief in the 18-0 Patriots is the point spread, or the minimum margin New England must win by in order for its backers to collect. Initially, the Patriots were favored by 14 points last week -- and should have been favored by even more, some experts say. Sean Van Patten, an oddsmaker at Las Vegas Sports Consultants, says he would've made the line 15. "I still think in the back of my mind that the bad Eli Manning might show up," he says of the Giants' up-and-down quarterback.

But bettors found the 14-point spread overly generous, considering the Giants' current 10-game winning streak on the road and the Patriots' recent close calls, which include a three-point victory over the Giants Dec. 29. As money has flowed in on the Giants, the sports books have lowered the spread to 12 or 12½ to encourage betting on New England and to even up the action. They are hoping that the line eventually will rise back to 13 or beyond, because history has shown that casual bettors -- who typically bet in the final few days before the game -- overwhelmingly favor the favorite.

Despite its current predicament, Vegas doesn't expect a repeat of Super Bowl XIII in 1979, a disastrous event that casinos still refer to as Black Sunday. In the lead-up to that game, the Pittsburgh Steelers were initially favored over the Dallas Cowboys by as few as two points. Bettors flocked to the Steelers, causing the spread to rise as high as five. Then sentiment switched to Dallas, driving the spread back down. Pittsburgh wound up winning, 35-31, in a worst-case scenario for the sports books, because bettors on both sides, those who had the Steelers minus fewer than four or Dallas plus more than four, got paid.

"I'm glad I wasn't working here then," the Hilton's Mr. Kornegay said.

As for the general public, the office pool, illicit though it may be, is on the rise. Nearly 4 of 5 employees (79%) in 2007 said they have participated in an office pool of some kind, including football, college basketball and Oscar pools, up from 67% in 2006, according to career publisher Vault Inc. While some states have strict laws outlawing betting, authorities generally aren't interested unless someone is running a gambling operation for income.

"Office pools are technically illegal under the California penal code, but I'd qualify that by saying law enforcement isn't exactly hiding out behind office doors," said Gareth Lacy, a spokesman for the California Department of Justice.

One of the most common office pools, and one that requires no football knowledge, is the "box pool," in which participants are assigned numbered squares on a 10x10 grid. The 0-9 numbers across the top represent one team, and the 0-9 numbers down the side represent the other. The victor is the person who occupies the square that matches the last two digits of the game's score. So, for example, if the Patriots beat the Giants, 28-14, the square that aligns with "Patriots 8, Giants 4" is the winner. Many pools also anoint winners at the end of the first, second and third quarters.


Free NBA Pick said...

yea id put my money on the giants with the big spread they have been given, i mean they almost beat them in week 16. i dont see this superbowl as a blowout and the giants have already overcome 2 huge obstacles, green bay and dallas.

Morty said...

I see your point, but what about the idea that the Patriots have seen the best the Giants can give, and are now ready for it?

Also, the Giants perhaps have lost the momentum they had with the week off. Plus, Eli has to turn into a pumpkin at some point, right?