Revenue favors the public in MLB betting
April 18, 2017 3:12 AM
by Micah Roberts
The one sport every Las Vegas sportsbook likes the least, based on revenues, is baseball. Fortunately for them they only have one month on the calendar when baseball is the main source of income.
Right now, they’re thankful the betting public has most of its interest and bankroll side-tracked and dedicated to the NBA Playoffs. The NHL Playoffs even get a little more traction with public appeal at this time of year.
After two weeks of action, baseball has been a grind so far for the house, which is right in line for most years. The books have been winning a few days, then they lose a few, making it basically a push, and that’s not the type of consistent results a casino desires.
They got a boost when the Pirates swept the Cubs over the weekend. The Cubs are respected by bettors everywhere and when the majority make their daily parlays, the Cubs are often thrown blindly into the mix.
CG Technology VP of risk management Jason Simbal said the easiest way to tell whether his books were a winner or loser on the day in baseball is simply checking to see if popular teams like the Cubs and Red Sox won on the same night together.
What I’m here to tell you is not to be too distracted by the allure of the NBA Playoffs at the expense of betting baseball. If a book holds 6.8 percent in the NBA, 7.1 percent in the NHL and 0.9 percent in baseball, what would seem like your best option to make money with?
When I worked behind the counter, part of my job was analyzing the P&L’s, including all wagering categories offered to the public, giving reasons why we won and excuses why we lost. Baseball was always filled with lots of excuses, more so than all the other sports. And the year-over-year analysis was always the same with occasional losing months in baseball and the lowest hold of all sports.
The simple reason was we were offering a 10-cent money-line split compared to basketball and football that has a 20-cent split on the point-spread and money-line. You can juice out the other sports with equal action, but with baseball it’s much smaller with the same limit wagers because of the line movement.
In other sports you move the spread with the same juice remaining on both sides. In baseball you move the money-line and each ensuing line move puts the book in a smaller window of opportunity to win if equal action is eventually bet on the other side.
And then there’s the true odds offered on baseball parlays compared to the pay chart for the pointspread-based sports. A four-team parlay payout on most pay charts around town offers 10-to-1 odds. In baseball, if taking four -110 favorites, it pays 12.28-to-1. That’s a big difference and part of the reason why July, when baseball is the only thing to bet on with no other distractions for the bettor, usually is a losing month for the house.
So why is it so many books offer the best value in baseball when it’s their least profitable sport? For years it’s been argued with success to the bean counters that “we can’t be at a competitive disadvantage by making changes to how baseball is offered.”
But that school of thought has changed in recent years.
MGM Resorts sportsbooks have been at a 20-cent split the longest and they do the best in town every year in baseball. We’ve seen places like Station Casinos and Wynn go to a 15-cent split when getting to -150. The Stratosphere and Caesars Palace start at a 15-cent split. The best baseball value offered in town remains at the Westgate SuperBook, South Point, William Hill, Coast Resorts and Golden Nugget.
The argument for books staying at the 10-cent split is that overall handle will be hurt. Sharp money will bet elsewhere and some books would rather hold 1.2 percent of $5 million than 5.2 percent of $1 million. In theory it sounds great, but there’s a reason we’ve seen so much change around town with the splits because wise guys do their best in baseball and throw a big monkey wrench into the theory, especially in July.
So enjoy the NBA and NHL Playoffs, but know your best bet is still baseball. My advice is to stay away from the run-line, unless taking +1.5, and the best parlay is the two-team side to total, usually with a hot starter tied to the Under.
It’s a great correlation; if one thing happens the other is more likely as opposed to tying two separate events together where they’re not correlated. Last season Baltimore was 22-8 behind Chris Tillman with 16 of those wins staying Under the total. More than half his starts had the two-teamer cash.
So far this season we’ve got a couple of pitchers off to quick starts that keep the game low scoring. Philadelphia’s Jeremy Hellickson, Milwaukee’s Wily Peralta and Colorado’s Antonio Senzatela have all seen their clubs go 3-0 behind them with all three staying Under as well. For Hellickson and Peralta they’ve been underdogs in all three. With true odds, +160 on the side tied to -105 on the Under pays 4-to-1. A paychart two-teamer in the NBA pays 13-to-5 odds.