A weekend like old times in Las Vegas

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If recommending one night to shoot a commercial that would capture the unrehearsed vibe and feel of what Las Vegas is all about, it would have been Saturday night when we had the diverse mix of rodeo goers and fight fans.

When I walked through a few of the south Strip casinos hours before the fight, I suddenly felt a pride about the city I don’t think I actually acknowledged to myself or anyone else prior.

I’ve lived in town since 1982 and have seen all the massive changes that have happened along the way, but the grandeur of the city is something maybe I’ve always taken for granted. Or possibly, it’s that things have changed so much in the past few years I simply forgot about how special this place is, or was.

That realization came to me as I saw thousands of new faces in town having the time of their life. That’s nothing new, it happens every day in Las Vegas. But on Saturday night, everyone seemed to be dressed with their best and treating the city with class and reverence as if I had been put in a time capsule from 30 years ago as folks prepared to go see Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra.

It felt like I was rubbing elbows with James Bond in Monte Carlo.

The main culprit of bringing a little old Las Vegas class into the new was the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight. It seems big fights in Las Vegas are getting rarer each year, and some say boxing is losing its luster to the hard charging UFC, but there is still nothing that comes close to matching a big fight night in Vegas.

At what other event would you see such a unique type of crowd that included Mitt Romney, Snookie, and .50 cent? Safe to say nowhere, but the combination of boxing and Las Vegas brought them together.

The thing that stood out the most on the day I think was the mix of ages and the clothes worn, and most of all, the pure class. Even the cowboys with their boots and hats were dressed to a tee. The women all seemed to be adorned in beautiful gowns and most men had suits – some in tuxedos, a rapid change from the younger crowd in their designer t-shirts going to one of the clubs.

We can look back at the growth of Las Vegas as an international destination and pinpoint certain timelines with the classic boxing events. And all it took to recapture some of that lost luster and revisit a blast to the past was having another big one.

Between all the smart executives in the casinos and the boxing promoters who love money, let’s hope they can get together soon to create more so we don’t have to wait too long before we see another extravaganza like Saturday night.

Sports Books KO’d

Pacquiao opened as high as -370 two months ago, but by the time the first round started, he had been as low as -180. When Marquez scored the sixth round knockout, he did the same to Las Vegas sports books.

“Everyone was on Marquez,” said MGM Resorts Jay Rood. “We had only a little more overall money bet on Marquez, but at odds of over 2-to-1 on him, it wasn’t good enough to come out ahead.”

Usually in the big boxing matches, the dog money always comes in early with the small money, and the larger money laying the favorite waits until the last possible moment at the lowest prices.

“I was surprised,” said Rood. “We just didn’t get that Pacquiao money we anticipated having. It never came to the degree I thought it would, or normally has.”

Beyond paying out at over 2-1 prices on Marquez, the small money ranging from $5 to $500 also sided with the propositions that paid the most such as betting under 10.5 rounds at +200 and Marquez to win by knockout at +650 in the 5-way prop.

The results varied at sports books across the city, but figured to be more pronounced at the MGM properties since the fight was held at the MGM Grand Arena.

“It was a pretty good size loss, comparable to a bad football Saturday” said Rood.

Just add that to the long on-going list of bettors sticking it to the books for the last six weeks.

In addition to losing the fight, the books also lost Saturday with college basketball favorites coming through, as well as the favorites winning in the top three UFC bouts held in Seattle.

NFL Sunday a Wash

After a rough Saturday, despite not having a normal college football schedule, Sunday was met with some optimism because there were only a few NFL games that had one sided public action.

The two big public games on the day were the Colts laying 4½-points at home against the Titans and the Falcons -3½ on the road at Carolina.

Not only did the Titans and Panthers cover the number, but overall, the underdogs went 7-3 against-the-spread in the morning games setting the books up for a nice day if the three afternoon games went their way. Six underdogs won outright in the early games which helped eliminate huge teaser liability and also knocked out big favorite money-line parlays. 

The Steelers (-7½) and Bucs (-7½) were the biggest upsets with large payouts for the few who sided with the Chargers (+330) and Eagles (+310) to win outright.

However, the afternoon games turned to be a monster of their own and just about everything the books won from the morning had been given back. All three favorites won and covered. Making it worse was that all three went OVER the total, giving bettors a nice six-team parlay at 40-1 for those trying to bounce back from getting beat earlier in the day.

At this juncture, most books were slightly ahead or even and their day rested with the Lions, getting 6 at Green Bay. Detroit had been 7-point dogs most of the week. The public liked the Packers, but the weather in the game and a few sharp plays on the Lions kept the number below 7.

Despite jumping out to a 14-point lead, the Lions ended up losing 27-20. But if there was a silver lining, the total remained UNDER (49).

The sports books have only three NFL weeks left to try and salvage something in the final quarter. Despite the sports book being a small percentage of overall win to the casino, the one variable that can sometimes push a casino over their projections in each quarter and the year is the volatile sports book business.

Because the book win is so hard to gauge, and nothing like the science in determining table game or slot win, a good month or two is what can be the difference in determining whether or not executives from each department get end-of-year bonuses.

So with three weeks to go, we could say that casino executives’ bonuses might be in the hands of the Raiders, Chiefs, Cardinals and Jaguars, all teams the public love to bet against.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Contact Micah at [email protected].

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