Las Vegas sportsbooks plan for baseball

Every day, there seemed to be a new revelation in talks between the Major League Baseball owners and the Players Association to get the 2020 season underway and every day, there was some hangup from making a deal to get a shortened season started. 

Prior to commissioner Rob Manfred announcing on Monday that there would be a 60-game season beginning July 24, I asked four different Las Vegas bookmakers to make a hypothetical Yes/No price on whether we’ll have a baseball season and I got a mix of different prices as well as who the favorite should be.

Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook executive manager Randy Blum handles most of the baseball futures there and made the “Yes” a big -400 favorite on a season happening with the No +330.

“The commissioner still has the ability to order a very short season based on an agreement made back in March,” Blum said, referring to Manfred and his plan to play a 60-game campaign. “Even if the sides can’t agree, there still could be baseball.

“There’s a chance the players could file a lawsuit if that happens, but “Yes” is still a decent favorite in my opinion. My number would have been significantly higher a week ago. The recent positive coronavirus tests definitely make it a bit lower.”

Last week, five Phillies were tested positive for the virus at their Clearwater, Fla., training facility which caused MLB to immediately close all training facilities.

Circa Sports director Matt Metcalf agreed with the high price.

“I started around pick ‘em but I felt like that can’t be the number,” Metcalf said. “Yes has to be favored and it’s probably a bigger favorite than I can imagine, hence -400.

“I think I just gave away my  oddsmaking strategy,” Metcalf said jokingly.

CG Technology sportsbook director Tony DiTommaso said he would make “Yes” -160 and then asked what I would make it. I said pick ‘em and he said that’s where he started and worked his way up.

“I’d take +320 on the “No” if offered before I laid the -400,” DiTommaso said.

The only bookmaker surveyed that made “No” the favorite was Jeff Stoneback who heads the sportsbook hub at MGM Resorts and he made the statement before the players rejected a 60-game regular season on Monday and Manfred announced the owners agreed unanimously to play.

“I would make the “No” a -150 favorite just because it doesn’t appear the players want to play and also because of the virus which shut down all the spring training facilities heading into last weekend,” Stoneback said from his Mirage office.

I’m leaning more with Stoneback’s opinion. The sole reason it was a tossup to me is because of the virus and more importantly, the knee-jerk reaction of Manfred. If another player or couple dozen test positive at any point. It’s going to shut down, and then eventually it will be too late to try to continue or even start whatever season is in place. 

The only thing that has ever shut a baseball season down was greed in 1994 and the coronavirus in 2020. I want baseball back, but I never thought there was a reason to play in home ballparks and travel to other places going through dirty airports, staying in different hotel rooms and transporting every day in different cars to the park.

The coronavirus should have set the rules much different for the MLB owners as the NBA did by putting the health and safety of the players first using a “bubble city” rather than attempting to squeeze out every cent of advertising billboards at the home parks.

With no fans allowed, why does it matter to play in the home park other than advertising?

But it appears we’re going to play ball in late July and that will be good news for the sportsbooks and their customers. The books can start sharpening their linesmaking skills and the bettors can start working on their handicapping.

Other MGM Resorts books opening soon

“The Mirage will be closed for another three weeks and the Park MGM is still to be determined, but the Luxor opens on Thursday and then July 1st the Aria and Mandalay Bay will open,” Stoneback said.

The MGM books also enjoyed some success at the bet windows last weekend.

“It turned out to be a good weekend for us thanks to having our first positive result with the UFC since the shutdown,” Stoneback said. “It was just our third winning weekend overall since the shutdown. The Bellagio also had some really big players in town for the Belmont Stakes.”

The BetMGM app has been open throughout the shutdown while most of the Nevada MGM retail books have been open for the last three weeks.

Stoneback couldn’t verify or deny a rumor that the Park MGM is being held back to possibly accommodate the NHL if Las Vegas gets to be a host city for the playoffs at T-Mobile Arena next door.

Golf bets brisk

SuperBook VP of risk management Jeff Sherman said they ended a small winner with Webb Simpson winning the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, S.C., and said the course was built perfectly for him. Which is why Sherman personally bet him to win at 28-1 odds. For Simpson, it was his second win in five tournaments this season, the first was the Phoenix Open in February.

Sherman, the top golf oddsmaker on the planet, was kind enough to share a few of his early wagers for this weekend’s Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Connecticut. He’s on Patrick Cantlay (28-1), Collin Morikawa (35-1) and Brian Harman (80-1). 

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