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The Alliance of American Football made its debut over the past weekend and one of the best barometers to see if the new league has any appeal to the fan base is checking in with the sportsbooks to see if fans are putting their money on AAF games. How was the handle?

“A lot better than I expected,” said South Point book director Chris Andrews.

Station Casinos’ chain of 18 books across the city also had their clientele buy-in.

“It was way higher than expected,” said Station book director Jason McCormick. “Great handle and the games were pretty good too.”

Those are two outstanding endorsements from busy books regarding the league. The Las Vegas locals love action on just about anything, but they can sniff out garbage real quick. They usually bet every day at their local books keeping traffic busy seven days a week as opposed to strip properties that get busy mostly on weekends by tourists.

In Las Vegas, we use handle as a gauge of an event’s popularity, but the rest of the country uses television ratings. In Saturday’s 5 p.m. prime time slot, the Network giants battled for viewership with ABC broadcasting an NBA game and CBS broadcasting an AAF game.

CBS beat out ABC with a 2.1 ratings share to 2.0. It’s a slim margin, but it kind of gives belief to the notion that sports fans prefer any kind of football to a regular season NBA game.

However, I remember booking XFL games in 2001. We had the Las Vegas Outlaws adding to the local interest. There was an initial curiosity by the locals and then it just kind of faded away. The talent pool wasn’t that great, nor was the level of play.

The difference between now and then is it appears the name recognition of all the coaches and also that 81 percent of the players on rosters played in the NFL. The quality of play looks decent and some of the differences between the AAF and NFL are welcomed, such as a crushing blindside sack Saturday night that went viral on social media which would have been called for a personal foul penalty in the NFL but wasn’t in the AAF.

There’s also transparency on official reviews. Viewers can hear the officials upstairs reviewing the games discuss why an initial call stands or why it’s being overturned.

William Hill’s Nick Bogdanovich said, “Most of the pre-match action came from sharp action playing the totals, but in-play action was pretty active. It was surprising.”

The Westgate SuperBook total in Sunday’s Salt Lake-Arizona game ran from 53 to 45 with Arizona winning 38-22. The side ran as well with Arizona moving from -3.5 to -5.

I can see this league has much more staying power than the XFL ever did. And it’s obvious the NFL has not frowned on it since the Sunday night game was broadcast on the NFL Network. 

New NASCAR rule

You may be seeing a few sportsbooks around town changing a portion of their house rules to accommodate new NASCAR rules for the 2019 season.

If the winner is found to be cheating after post-race inspection, the win will be immediately stripped and given to the second-place finisher. The expected post-race inspection takes 1.5 to 2 hours. 

The problem for Nevada books is that most house rules state that “the unofficial winner declared by NASCAR (officiating body) immediately following the race will be declared the winner for betting purposes.”

If the book doesn’t change their rules to wait until after the post-race inspection in confirming the winner, they could find themselves having two groups of bettors wanting to get paid. Kevin Harvick cheated twice last season and would be posted this year as 40th-place, or last-place, finisher.

Let’s take Las Vegas last March as an example if not adjusting house rules: Harvick bettors would get paid immediately following the race. After two hours, NASCAR would strip Harvick of the win and then give the official win to Kyle Busch. Bettors wanting to cash with Busch would be told they lost.

If something happened like that in Las Vegas again this season, it could be a big PR disaster because of the wagering. No one wants to cause any bad experience for our guests. It would be a bad look for any of the races. The Westgate SuperBook is the first book I know of to officially change their rules to wait on the post.

I’d also like to explain calling Harvick a cheater because I really think his crew simply did some creative engineering to gain an edge. “Cheater” is harsh, but relates more to what other sports deal with. But beating the rules has always been part of NASCAR, with a wink. Breaking rules is how NASCAR was built. It was born from moonshining hot rods.

If you’re not cheating in NASCAR, you’re not trying. It’ll happen at least once this season.


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