In the aftermath of sports betting being legalized throughout the country, some jurisdictions have had to worry about home field advantage or disadvantage, depending on the situation.
As the NFL heads into conference championship weekend, no such problem exists this year. None of the remaining teams play in states that have legalized sports betting.
Such wasn’t the case a year ago at this time. You may recall the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots were still competing. That meant the sportsbooks in Mississippi and Rhode Island had to worry about being overexposed on bets on the home team.
The Saints were made 3-point favorites over the Rams in the NFC Championship Game and it climbed to 3.5 in Mississippi. Call it a state tax on the Saints if you will.
New England was a 3.5-point underdog to Kansas City, though in Rhode Island, where the Patriots are obviously near and dear to the hearts of bettors, they gladly took the points at Twin River. And when the Pats won and went on to beat the Rams in the Super Bowl, it was another losing day in Rhode Island, though the books and casinos were full and partying.
It figures to be slightly quieter this year in those jurisdictions. The Saints and Patriots are out. And while that may be a good thing from the books’ ledger perspective as the risk of having the home team win and/or cover is eliminated, it also means that fewer people will come into the books, bet and spend the day watching.
My guess is it’ll still be busy in Mississippi and Rhode Island this weekend to watch the Titans and Chiefs and the Packers and 49ers. The Super Bowl will also be a busy day because it’s, well, the Super Bowl.
But it’s not just Mississippi and Rhode Island. They’ll be lining up in New Hampshire, in Indiana, in Arkansas and in Iowa to either place a bet in a retail sportsbook or sign up for a mobile wagering account as people will be able to legally bet on the Super Bowl for the first time in those states.
There’ll be plenty of traffic heading across the Hudson River from New York City into New Jersey for those bettors who don’t feel like driving upstate to place a bet in one of the Empire State’s four sportsbooks.
It’ll be busy in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia too as bettors in those states as well as those visiting figure to boost the handle at the books.
Then there’s Nevada.
Anyone who thought the end was near for the Silver State was as mistaken as those who thought Mark Twain was a goner back in 1897 when he was quoted saying: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”
The news from the state’s Gaming Control Board a couple weeks ago that reported the sportsbooks did a record $614 million in handle for November is proof the king isn’t dead. But admittedly, some observers figured it was looking bleak for a while given the numbers Jersey was churning out and the monthly wins the Garden State had racked up.
There’s a couple of contributing factors to the Nevada record month. One, there was college and pro basketball along with college football and the NFL along with hockey, to help drive the handle. Two, more and more people are using their mobile app to bet. Three, Thanksgiving weekend usually means more visitors to the state.
I remember Art Manteris of Station Casinos telling me more than a year ago that he wasn’t worried about the growth of sports betting across the country negatively impacting Nevada. He said Las Vegas would be just fine. And for the most part he’s been proven right.
You’ll see it again this week for the conference championships and two weeks hence for Super Bowl LIV, especially if the 49ers make it. The Faithful will flock to Nevada, not just in Vegas, but Reno and Lake Tahoe, to watch and wager.
You’ll also see it come March when the NCAA basketball tournament tips off. I would anticipate Indiana, which is a hoops-crazy state, would get a significant boost in handle. But the first four days of the tournament in Vegas has become almost as big as Super Bowl weekend in terms of drawing customers and betting handle.
I liken the current sports betting scene to going to a store that just opened and trying on a new pair of shoes. You’ll feel excited when you walk into a new shop. You’ll slip on the shoes. They’ll look good and fit good. But there’s something about that old pair that just feels right.
That’s Las Vegas. It’s your old pair of shoes that are broken in, feel comfortable and are still fashionable. You always come back to that pair. And when it comes to betting and watching the biggest sports events, people always seem to come back to the Strip, resort fees be damned.