Las Vegas has seen huge weekends the past two weeks with college football kicking off on Labor Day weekend and pro football making its debut last week.
Nothing, though, will compare to the pageantry that embodies everything great about this little stop in the desert as we’ll see this Saturday when the perfect mix of class, money and events will make it the center of the sporting world universe.
The centerpiece of the all the expected excitement is Floyd Mayweather taking the ring at the MGM Grand Arena Saturday night against Canelo Alvarez, in what will be one of the undefeated Mayweather’s toughest matches ever.
We don’t get as many big time boxing matches as we would like in Las Vegas, but when they do come to town, it’s like taking a step back into our past. Boxing helped build Las Vegas into what it is today, and it would be fair to say it is the only thing that has maintained its grip on the city amid all the vast changes over the past 20 years.
In addition to the big fight going on, there is also the excitement in the sports books earlier in the day that will feature the college football game of the year where Alabama is a 9-point favorite at Texas A&M in a rematch of last year’s game when Johnny Manziel became a household name by beating the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.
“After this past weekend, I didn’t think it would be possible we could be any busier at our books,” MGM Resorts sports book hub manager Jeff Stoneback said.
“We were absolutely slammed at our book (Mirage) with our new video wall display; it was like an early Thursday or Friday during March Madness. But a big fight night like this with the Alabama-A&M game as well, we should see a crowd bigger than we just experienced at all our properties.”
The MGM Resorts properties have almost that entire end of the Strip locked down as their own near the MGM Grand where the fight will be. However, the entire city wins just because everyone wants to be a part of the Las Vegas fight night experience, whether they are going to the event or not. People love to get dressed up like they used to in the old days, and they like to rub elbows with the rich and famous at the crap tables. Nothing else draws this type of hip crowd to Las Vegas.
As for the fight itself, Mayweather is currently a -240 favorite after opening up -265.
“We’re long on the underdog, as usual, but surprisingly, we started to get some Mayweather action last week,” Stoneback said. “Usually we don’t get favorite money until a day or two before the fight.”
Perhaps the low odds on Mayweather is the reason for bettors jumping in early. This week’s fight will be his lowest odds since 2007 when he was a -200 favorite against Oscar De La Hoya.
A win for books: The books got some great news on Sunday. First off, they won on the first NFL Sunday with the favorites going 6-6-1 ATS, but maybe more importantly, they got a great sign for future games as a couple teams slated to be very good weren’t that great. Also, a few others that were supposed to be awful showed up with strong performances.
Perception is everything for the bettors, and their perception has had a monkey wrench thrown into the mix after one week of play, which gives the book and edge.
The Patriots have traditionally been one of those teams the public can always rely on, but without their two-headed tight-ends and a group of receivers that don’t have the good hands like Tom Brady has been used to, there was enough in Sunday’s 23-21 win at Buffalo to put doubt in the bettors’ minds. However, the Broncos may be a different story. While bettors jumped off the wagon for Thursday’s 49-27 win against the Ravens, they’ll be hopping back on, beginning this week against the Giants.
As for the bad teams, the Raiders were considered by most to be the worst team in the league and they showed some toughness on both sides of the ball that no one expected in Sunday’s 21-17 loss at Indianapolis as an 11-point underdog.
Pryor was unstoppable on the ground, and that will cause just a little bit of doubt when they go to the windows to bet next week. The same goes for the Jets, who beat the Bucs as 4-point dogs. And it’s also obviously apparent the doormat from the past few seasons, Kansas City, has made some upgrades in coaching and quarterbacking that will make an impact in 2013.
The only fear for the books in the near future is the Jaguars. This team was thought to have been awful by everyone before the season started and proved it in a home, 28-2, loss to the Chiefs. The public will pile on this team until they show something, and the books know they’re going to have to inflate their prices soon to at least attract some kind of action on them from sharp bettors who know what the proper rating should be.
Books up in college: Despite the favorites going 23-13 ATS on Saturday’s regular board, the books still came out ahead. Usually that type of favorite/underdog ratio spells bad news for the books, but the day became more about not having a group of high profile games all coming in and winning the big west coast late games.
“Oregon (-22) was the game that did us in early,” South Point’s Bert Osborne said. “That was the big game of the day, and we lost, but we did very well with BYU (+7) and Washington State (+16) in the late games.”
The Ducks boat raced Virginia, 59-10, at Charlottesville, BYU pounded Texas, 40-21, at Provo, and the Cougars upended USC on their home field.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].