Las Vegas Sports Books lose $7-to-$9 mil over weekend

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Las Vegas sports books just endured one of the roughest weekends ever in state history.

Official records aren’t kept by the Nevada Gaming Control Board on daily numbers like they do for the Super Bowl, but from talking with several directors around town and having a personal understanding of what one of the worst days ever in Las Vegas was, I feel comfortable estimating that Nevada sports books lost anywhere from $7-to-9 million over the weekend, and that could be a low estimate.

No sports book director gave me any indication or hint of their actual numbers, nor did I ask, because it isn’t appropriate to put any of them in a position to discuss their company funds.

After seeing the results of the weekend, which became an ongoing parlay heaven for bettors, and hearing the tone deflection in the directors’ voices from talking with them on a weekly basis, this was no ordinary weekend, but one that had been brewing for some time.

“This was the perfect storm that has been brewing for the entire season,” said South Point sports book director Bert Osborne. “It’s a disaster.”

A perfect storm indeed, where negative energy meets positive energy and explodes. The negative energy – for the bettors – has been the underdogs hitting at 61 percent over the season in the NFL, which has caused most public bettors – who love betting the favorites – to have a terrible season.

The positive energy is when the favorites finally start hitting. Over the weekend, beginning with Thursday night’s Chargers cover, the key favorites rolled into monster parlay payouts where six, seven and eight teamers were cashing like never seen before. Even 10-team parlays were being cashed out at 800-to-1, odds that a book can never recoup.

“I’ve been here (LVH Super Book) 8½ years and this is the worst day I’ve had,” said LVH Super Book vice-president Jay Kornegay.

“This could rival one of the worst Sunday’s we’ve ever had since I’ve been running a book,” said Osborne, a 25-year veteran of running books for Michael Gaughan’s properties.

Saturday started out decent for the books, but at the end of the day college favorites went 32-19-1 against-the-spread. The big bang was the prime time games with LSU, Oregon and Kansas State covering. The OVER in the Oregon and Kansas State games were almost as popular as the sides, and of course, the majority of the betting public had them all locked together in a parlay. Four-teamers pay 11-to-1, five-teamers pay 20-1, and they were popping. 

It got even worse when the late Saturday results were posted with UCLA and Oregon State covering. Saturday was a big loser for the books, but the effects of the day wouldn’t be finished because the lingering live games were all going to public favorites on Sunday putting the books in a hole before the day even started. 

This is when the big tidal wave starts to take its shape and put the sports book in a position to have to beat down at least half of their big wagered upon games. On Sunday, they didn’t win any of those games.

“If you don’t win the morning games, you can’t recover,“ said Korn­egay. “You’re looking at a red number that the afternoon or evening games can’t erase.

“We lost seven of the eight early games. The only game we won on was the Panthers beating the Redskins. It was pretty much Murphy’s law all day,” he said. 

The big game that got it all started was the Broncos covering 4-points at Cincinnati, and then one after another, every game fell the bettors way. 

“We had some leftovers from a rough Saturday that spilled over and then our worst case scenario happened in the early games with Denver, Baltimore and the Lions covering,” said Osborne. “Those three teams were wound together pretty tight on a lot of parlays, and then everything else followed suit with the afternoon games where Seattle was extremely bad, but the Bucs were even worse because it was the last game posted (before the Atlanta game) and everything tied in from the day that was still alive, paid out.”

When the last game is posted, the main screen doesn’t even show the parlay card results, which were an entirely different wave of destruction, and perhaps maybe the most destructive. 

On the day the favorites went 8-4 ATS, but even the underdogs that covered were either mixed with public support like the Panthers (+3) and Steelers (+3), or completely one sided, like the Colts (2.5) and the Buccaneers (+1). 

“We’re not a big parlay card house, so I guess I feel fortunate that we don’t have that type of liability,” Kornegay said.

The big parlay card houses in town are the local properties, off the Strip, who kind of live and die by the sword on a weekly basis. This season, they have been living quite extravagantly thanks to the underdogs, but on Sunday, they gave back a huge chunk of it. 

The big blow came when the Falcons kicked a field goal with seconds left to take a 19-13 lead and cover the 4-point spread. 

“What was weird was that every game that had the possibility of having a back door cover at the end that might have helped us on a few games, didn’t happen,” Osborne said.

When the books can’t even get a back door cover for help, the kind that kills the small players’ six-team parlay on a weekly basis, you know the perfect storm has hit.

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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