NBA dispute just as scary as NFL strike

Jun 28, 2011 3:10 AM

 

We don’t have anything settled in the NFL yet, which has created some anxiety with bettors and bookmakers in Nevada, but now the issue is compounded even more with the threat of the NBA joining the party.

Those who have followed it closely agree the NFL deal will get done soon with not much time lost, but that’s not the case with the NBA where many experts believe we could have a lengthy loss of play similar to what happened in the 1998-99 season where a 204-day lockout lost 32 games for each team resulting in a 50-game shortened regular season.

The owners and players are meeting Tuesday in Dallas to see if they can get anything worked out. This could be also be the day a lockout is authorized.

For Nevada sports books, strikes and lockouts are bad for business, especially when it’s their two most profitable areas of operation.

In pro football, every game is for big money. The Nevada Gaming Control Board tracks what each casino does monthly and the figures for 2010 give a great scope for us to look and see just how powerful each of the sports are to Nevada sports books.

The GCB combines all the figures of pro and college sports together, but it’s pretty clear the meat and potatoes of all book operations are football and basketball.

Nevada sports books won $151 million in 2010 with close to $75 million coming from football when throwing the parlay card category into the mix. That’s just below half of the overall win coming from football.

Next in line, and surprisingly not too far behind, is basketball with $39 million in win followed by baseball at $22 million.

In the NBA, none of the individual game handle comes close to comparing to what an NFL game does. But when you start adding up eight to 10 games a night, seven days a week, four weeks a month, the figures start to mount over the long and grueling 82-game season.

Add in the never ending post-season figures with 16 teams participating and you have a chunky piece of the overall pie that keeps cash flowing from the time the NCAA tournament ends through June.

What makes the NBA so good for Nevada goes even beyond the sports books. The daily games keep bettors of all kinds walking through the doors with crossover action played on table games and slots, and money spent at restaurants.

Football owns the weekends, but basketball keeps the traffic going strong Tuesday through Friday. Those Tuesday through Friday games will affect the local sports books much more than the Strip properties.

The $20 bettor who regularly makes parlays on the NBA at locations close to home like Station Casinos, South Point operations or Coast Casinos properties might be inclined to stay home or dine somewhere else without the games forcing a visit to the casino.

"The local books will definitely be affected more than the Strip just because of that lost action during the week," said Coast Casinos sports book director Bob Scucci. "Our books are jumping nightly with NBA action during the week. When the Lakers play at 7:30, this entire sports book is packed with standing room only like a Monday night football game."

The breakdown of where the NBA ranks in handle for each book varies from each location. The Strip properties have estimated the NBA being about 10 to 15% of their overall handle, while the local books estimate higher.

"I’d say the NBA is closer to 20% of our yearly handle," said Scucci, who sets the lines for some of the more popular local books like The Orleans, Sam’s Town, Sun Coast and Gold Coast.

The Hilton’s Jay Kornegay just hopes for business’ sake that things get worked out.

"Are we concerned? Yes, but it’s out of our hands. I would say (industry wide) the NBA represents about 13% of our handle. I don’t care what industry you’re in, you don’t want to lose 13% of it. We’re a big NBA house compared to others, but we still write more on college basketball. My guess is the college game represents around 20% of the handle because of the number of games played."

I was working as a manager of a Las Vegas sports book when the last NBA strike happened and, with all the month-to-month and year-over-year comparisons, the loss of the NBA stood out like a sore thumb on the financial sheets.

I can remember using the excuse on why my numbers were down in monthly P&L meetings with the corporate finance people; using the NBA strike as the sole reason from November through January. It almost became an on-going joke and when I had a losing baseball month in July, I broke the tension – for myself anyway – by blaming the losses on the NBA strike.

Casino finance departments always want to know down to the penny what they can expect to win on the year, matching it up with the budget and updated forecasts on a daily basis.

Right now, with the threat of losing some NFL action, and now possibly some NBA games, they’ve got a major gash on their green sheets with the possibility of losing millions of their expected win.

Not being able to have a concrete forecast number makes a lot of general managers antsy as presidents and shareholders want the expected win number that was set out as a goal in January.

Kornegay has been rapidly changing his forecast sheets for the months of August through December to reflect the possibility of a lengthy NFL lockout and is now factoring in the NBA.

"I have a budget if everything goes as planned with no loss of play, and also one that has some major lumps in it with a worst case scenario."

Here’s to hoping the back-up budget never has to leave Kornegay’s office and see the board room’s light.