NFL Sundays are hectic for oddsmakers

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For this week’s column, I wanted to get an inside look at the day in the life of an oddsmaker.

I immediately thought of Tom Gable, Director of Race & Sports for Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, NJ. Tom helped me with a previous column and I value his insight, as he’s been working in the industry for over 20 years.

Gable first became fascinated with casinos and the gambling business in college. After graduating, he got his start in the industry at the Sands and has been in the game ever since.

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, I wasn’t able to make it out to the Borgata, but Tom filled me in the best he could on the inner workings of his job on a typical NFL Sunday.

His NFL days start the same. He typically wakes up between 6 and 6:30 a.m. and goes through email and the previous day’s results. He will then check for any updates on games to see if anything changed overnight in terms of their positions.

After getting ready, he makes it into the casino by 8:30 as they open the book at 9 on weekends. Once the book opens, he starts his day there by doing administrative tasks like updating schedules, making sure the supervisor team has their sheets and parlay cards printed and available. He then reviews all of the previous day’s compliance and accounting paperwork, updating the race book’s daily numbers for accounting.

The trading team is normally on duty by 8 a.m. From there, they usually log in and take over for the overnight BetMGM team to keep an eye on the bet ticker and handle bet approvals.

Gable says he works with his teams closely on a daily basis.

“It’s an ongoing process throughout the week based on news, action (money) taken, and the broader market,” he said.

Then, after running through all of the markets to make sure things look O.K., the fun begins. He will deal with higher end customers before kickoff as well as handle casino host inquiries. Like most of the bigger casinos, the Borgata has some big players, so Gable will extend limits to them as a courtesy for their business.

The Borgata also hosts VSiN’s “Lombardi Line” every Saturday and Sunday, so Gable usually checks in with the VSiN group to make sure they have what they need. On top of that, he will typically make an appearance on the show at some point before noon.

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The last hour before kickoff of the 1 p.m. games is chaotic. Appeasing the customers and booking bets is the name of the game during that time, as they want to make sure they get everyone through the line.

“I’m typically running around for that last hour between my office, handling customers, quickly going over seating assignments to make sure the most important customers are accommodated, and making sure our employees are O.K.,” Gable said.

Once the 1 p.m. games kick off, Gable again focuses on knocking out some administrative tasks like payroll, answering emails, etc. The process then repeats itself before the late afternoon games, but just not as chaotic.

Once the night game kicks off, Gable finally heads home. Of course, he has to see that game through before he finally hits the sack. Fun times, right?

I asked him a couple more follow-up questions. First one being, what causes big line moves at his book? He tells me it’s usually one of three things.

“Respected money, injury news (this year that includes COVID) and weather,” he said.

Do their “bosses” have a “talk” with them if the books get crushed? Gable quickly shot down the notion.

“I think everyone understands by now that, especially in sports wagering, there are some very high and some very low days”, he said. “Swings happen all the time and everyone here has been in the industry long enough to realize that it is the nature of the business.”

While craziness is a norm that Gable is used to, there are still a few things that even make him sweat.

“It was the beginning of January during NFL Wild Card weekend this year,” Gable said. “We had a very high- end customer come in who had bet with us before and he placed a $400,000 wager on a 3-team teaser: Bills +8.5, Titans +10.5 and the Saints -1.5.

“The Bills and Titans were winners on Saturday, so he only needed the Saints on Sunday to come through and he would cash a ticket for over a million dollars (he would have won $640,000 for the teaser). The Saints get upset on Sunday in the early game, so the ticket is a loser, but he isn’t done firing. He made a few other bets throughout Saturday and Sunday and ended up with $75K still available which he promptly put on the first half total of the Eagles/Seahawks game (under 22), which he won. He then lets it ride and wagers $143,181.80 on a 4-team parlay (second half Seahawks money line, Illinois college basketball money line, the Chicago Blackhawks money line and the Nashville Predators money line) that would win him $996,553.05 (+ his $143K back).

“The first three legs come in. The Predators game isn’t until 10 or 10:30 p.m. local time because it’s a West Coast game (they’re playing the Ducks). I remember leaving for the day and walking out to my car and thinking that I should be feeling pretty good after a very strong weekend. But I didn’t feel good because we were one hockey game away from losing a million dollars, which would certainly put us in the red for the weekend (and possibly the month).

“I typically don’t watch regular season hockey games too much, but I was glued to the TV for this one and it turned out to be a very nerve-wracking game. The lead went back and forth between both teams and from what I remember I don’t believe either team scored at all in the third period and it remained a tie. No one scored in overtime either so it went to a shootout and the Ducks won it in the shootout. I can’t imagine what was going through his head and losing out on a million dollars on an NHL shootout.”

Just another weekend at the book.

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