This is usually the week where it becomes apparent to both sides of the sportsbook counter that a season is changing and football starts hogging the attention with bettors’ bankrolls.
The Hall of Fame game was originally scheduled for Thursday night with the Steelers and Cowboys. But it and the entire NFL preseason schedule was chopped in a precautionary move to help protect the players from a potential coronavirus outbreak which could have put the start of the regular season in jeopardy. Or maybe it’s just a stall tactic as the league waits for a COVID-19 vaccine. The NFL is running out of time as it watched how the other leagues have gone about it, being able to pick and choose what works best. Now the ball is in their court and the clock is ticking.
The Raiders announced on Monday that no fans would be allowed in for home games at the brand new Allegiant Stadium in the first season they’ll call Las Vegas home.
Some players had such a concern over the coronavirus that they opted out of the 2020 season so they don’t even have to be bothered with all the rules of trying to safely social distance despite breathing and sweating on each other on every snap. Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. hasn’t opted out yet, but he told The Wall Street Journal: “I just feel like the season shouldn’t happen and I’m prepared for it to not happen and I wouldn’t mind not having it.”
A lot of players probably have the same feeling as Beckham but aren’t as outspoken or they’re not quite ready to bail on their teammates. Nick Bogdanovich, the head bookmaker for William Hill sportsbooks, is rooting for all the games to be played. But he does have some skepticism.
“I’m not holding my breath that baseball will make it or even if the NFL decides to delay or cancel the season,” Bogdanovich said. “But we’ve been busier than hell since MLB, the NHL and the NBA all came back. We’re still doing the table tennis and it still gets action, but with so many other things for us to babysit now, we offer less of the table tennis, like maybe only 25 matches daily instead of everything available.”
Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook manager Ed Salmons says the preseason football games are always well received by the betting public and many will miss the action.
“The public has fun with the pre-season and will always bet the games if they’re on TV, but still, two-thirds of the money we get is from sharp bettors,” Salmons said.
Salmons went on to talk about the effect on their Super Bowl future wagers and lagging handle from what he sees every year at this time.
“Handle has been down with the futures,” Salmons said. “You can just tell with less tourist traffic through the casino we’re not getting as many of those (souvenir) tickets. But I’m sure as people see games they’ll bet more of the futures like they did with baseball when they started.”
Handle on the NFL futures may be down from previous years, but there looks to be people with money ready to invest in a few teams as training camp is upon us.
“Our biggest risk so far has been the Chiefs (4-1) by a mile,” Bogdanovich said. “We’ve got the most money bet on them and the most tickets as well. Usually, we’re always aligned to win a lot with the favorites, but they’re all over the Chiefs.”
The Chiefs getting bet a lot to win back-to-back Super Bowls is the same story at the SuperBook.
“We took two big bets on the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl, one $25,000 on them at 5-1 and another for $55,000 also at 5-1,” Salmons said. “The Chiefs are our biggest loser followed by the Raiders (40-1) and Seahawks (16-1).”
With Tom Brady out of the mix in the AFC, bettors have weeded out the teams they think can compete with the Chiefs for the AFC Championship.
“Our biggest risk to win the AFC is the Bills who we recently took a $10,000 bet on at 12-1 odds, but I didn’t move the number because we had been as high as 22-1, so the bettor didn’t get the best number,” Bogdanovich said. “The Bills also have the most tickets to win the AFC along with the Titans (17-1).”
The Ravens cruised through the regular season winning their last 12 games to finish 14-2 while also gaining lots of new supporters by covering nine of their last 10 games.
“We have the Ravens at 4-1 to win the AFC after taking multiple bets on them at 5-1,” Salmons said. “We took a $5,000 bet on them, along with a $1,000, and a $2,500. We’re also a tiny loser with the Titans to win the AFC with multiple large bets at 30-1 odds.”
Both William Hill and the SuperBook offer some of the best future prices in Nevada with an attempt to be around a 26 percent theoretic hold on the indexes. But the least attractive odds on the board are the Buccaneers at 12-1.
“We have risk on the Buccaneers and we’re down to 12-1 on them, but most of the risk came from a Feb. 4th bet on them at $3,300 at 60-1 odds from a group of guys,” Salmons said. “And I know they didn’t have any idea Brady was going to be the QB.”
I’m excited about Brady and Bucs like so many others, but when I saw the price dropping more down to 12-1 due to signing a tight end, it led me to believe the public is crazy on this one, squeezing everything they can on a worn-out number that should be about 25-1.
The first game to bet, or first game to be canceled or postponed, is the Thursday night game on Sept. 10 with the Chiefs (-10) hosting the Texans will be our first piece of pro football action to bet.