The effects from Johnny Manziel’s debut for the Cleveland Browns on Saturday night at Detroit were felt here in Las Vegas at the sports books where bettors pushed the Browns to a 2½-point favorite by kickoff after Detroit had opened -2½.
Most of that movement is just air moves by books trying to stay with the market, rather than moving from bets taken. The books haven’t been getting too many limit plays even though most have low limits set at $1,000 on sides and $500 on totals.
“We may have some large movements on the preseason games, but our goal on these games is to just be a half-point off from the market number,” said Aliante sports book director Marc Nelson. “When the regular season rolls around, that’s when we employ a much different booking strategy, where it’s more about what we book rather than the market.”
The Week 1 preseason favorites went 10-6 against-the-spread and the UNDER occurred in 11 of the 16 games, which is in stark contrast to last preseason when the OVER happened in 59 percent of the games.
It’s interesting to note the lowest total of the week, 35½ with Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville, stayed UNDER the number as the Jaguars won 16-10 with a nice performance out of first round draft pick Blake Bortles. The highest total of the bunch, 42 with Philadelphia at Chicago, flew OVER the number as the Bears won 34-28. That total opened at 38½ and soared to 41 by Tuesday.
Aliante leads contests
We have all kinds of great pro football contests offered throughout Las Vegas that we’ll be talking about heading into September, but one stands out the most just because of all the free cash they’re offering.
The Aliante race and sports book’s Airin it Out pro football contest has the best overlay of all the contests, in a format that presents your best chance of winning.
You can’t beat Boyd Gaming’s contest because it’s free and they give away almost $500,000, but it’s crowded. The same thing with Station Casinos’ Great Giveaway where there is a $25 fee and they offer a massive overlay that produces over $1 million in cash prizes.
All of these no-points contests are must plays just because of the money given away, but the most attractive because of better chances to win is Aliante where they are posting a guaranteed $100,000 for their property alone. Last season in the first year of running it, there were only 650 contestants. Buy three at $25 each and get the fourth one free.
They will essentially give away close to $80,000 for the marketing purposes of getting you into their North Las Vegas doors where you might play some tables or enjoy their restaurants. And chances are, because of a smaller pool of contestants, you have a better probability of winning, which is geared mostly for weekly ($3,300) and quarterly ($7,000) cash prizes.
This allows the contest to be relevant many times over. If you miss Week 2, you can still jump back in the next week. You can try again for the quarter prize in a few weeks and not focus so much on the end-of-season prize.
Football is a great marketing tool and everyone here in Las Vegas loves it, which is why some of the big locals properties offer such large prizes. Every casino marketing team hopes the money given away on the overlay is justified by getting a guest to come in at least once for 17 straight weeks. And it’s an added bonus if those people come earlier in the week to pick up their contest cards, which many do.
For Station and Boyd, those overlays are justified big time through increased slot play, which is why they have been running their popular contests for so long. Pick the Pro’s is running for the 37th season straight. Then-Barbary Coast owner Michael Gaughan, who now owns the South Point, was the mastermind behind it all from the beginning. He saw what football meant to the regular guy and he saw his casino revenues spike because of the contest.
The Aliante contest doesn’t have the top prize among all the no-points contests, but director Nelson’s idea to go full throttle with cash to get some of those people through his doors should be enticing for everyone who plays these type of contests. Go out and get your share of their marketing cash.
Good-bye, David Lee
One of the greats in the sports book industry, David Lee, passed away on Wednesday (see page 1 story noting services). Lee was smart and knew betting more than most. In the years he ran the Mandalay books I got to know him because we were both on the Nevada Pari-Mutuel committee. I found him to be the quintessential gentleman, as in James Bond-ish.
David was so cool and dressed like a million bucks every day. You should have seen him on any day at Del Mar. He looked like he owned the place. He had this international flair to him no one else running a book in Las Vegas had. He was a good man and I was far better for knowing him. A total class act. Rest in peace my friend!
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].