I’ve got World Cup fever and the only cure is more soccer, at least for a month of it anyway.
There is this buzz in my ear and I can feel something big is about to happen. It’s not the type of buzz that happens every year for a big event like the Super Bowl or March Madness, it’s the type of buzz that only happens every four years, where every country in the world has some interest.
If you can’t be at Brazil for the games that begin next Thursday, the next best place to be – at least in America – is in Las Vegas, just because we finally get it here. We’ve seen soccer grow leaps and bounds in this country and as the popularity has grown, so has the betting interest in the sports books.
When I was writing tickets on the Strip during the 1994 World Cup, when it was played in the States, we didn’t even book all the games. But the energy brought into the casino from tourists watching their events was amazing.
That excitement translated into huge write and excess spending at the bars and restaurants. One of the most exciting things about soccer is the drinking and the vibe produced from all the lads having a pint.
When the books started to get more requests for soccer action from the guests who had found a new sport they liked when the Cup was here, the books had to listen to the customer and they started posting various professional leagues, in addition to all future World Cup games.
The handle created has morphed into being a huge part of the June and July months. Every four years, the books can budget a chunky write and win percentage boost that helps a usually dry, baseball-only calendar.
The World Cup is now big business at the Las Vegas sports books. And they just don’t book every game now, they offer props like you might see at a corner bet shop in London. So get out there and be a part of all the fun.
Even if you don’t like soccer, consider this more a cultural awakening. This is a festival of sorts, where people wear the flags of their country proudly. New York’s melting pot is always a nice place to watch international soccer, but Las Vegas keeps churning visitors from all over the world every day, and you can bet on it.
World Cup odds: Okay my Las Vegas sports book friends, we can do better than what I’ve been seeing on the odds to win the World Cup around town. Not everyone can be in the 30 percent theoretic hold range like William Hill or the LVH Super Book, or even in the 34 percent offered by the South Point, but some of the hold percentages at 50 percent or higher are kind of embarrassing.
Most of the problems with the odds are because when a book gets long on a certain team, they chop their odds, but fail to raise the teams with less risk high enough to balance out the hold percentages.
So while the initial offerings were set to be around 42 percent, which is still fair for the public, when chopping odds on a big favorite like Brazil from 9-2 down to 2-1, they don’t raise enough of the other teams to balance things out.
For most of our unsuspecting guests visiting our great city just looking for a little World Cup action, they don’t know any better and will rarely complain. But at some point, there has to be some ethics involved when dealing numbers. Our guests deserve better, and the brand of the city deserves better.
Billy Walters: Speaking of ethics, I could go on for a while about this legendary sports bettor and the cat and mouse games played over my years behind the counter where I did everything I could to keep his crew from taking advantage of us.
However, when the Wall Street Journal called me the other day to try and get some background on him for their ongoing story of the investigation of Walters, Phil Mickelson and Carl Icahn allegedly involved in insider trading, I found myself reluctant to share details.
I was actually very complimentary of his skills, his information gathering, and said he was the best sports bettor I had ever seen. But it’s his tactics of getting his wagers down that sometimes irritated me, and I left that part out of the WSJ story. Nothing illegal, just all part of the betting game in Las Vegas that every book has to deal with. He is priority number one in finding out who his people are, and his new people pop up all the time – many from Kentucky or Florida.
If a book has too many Billy guys placing bets, the profit margin goes down considerably because Walters doesn’t lose long term. He’s a consistent winner.
Overall, I must say it was a fun game with Walters’ group. It kept me on my toes. It was actually kind of fun trying to build a profile on new large bettors and determining whether they were Billy guys or not.
Many of my relationships with book directors around the city were started from inquiry calls to see if I could gather any information on a new guy with a Kentucky I.D. I suspected of being part of Walters’ group. And while not liking some of their methods of infiltrating more people into my book than I would like, his group always had my respect and they were always professional, and of course, always well dressed.
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].