There’s a number of certainties heading into Thursday’s 2020 NFL Draft.
One, the draft is not being held in Las Vegas as initially planned. Second, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick by the Bengals. Finally, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell won’t be booed to start the draft for the first time.
With no other major American sports being played due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the four sportsbooks still operating online in Nevada had to go the extra distance in NFL Draft proposition offerings to attract more wagers. One book, in particular, has done just that.
“We’re (up) way more in just about every category this season with the number of props and overall handle,” William Hill’s head bookmaker Nick Bogdanovich said Monday afternoon. “Our handle could end up being three times more than last season, five times of 10 times.”
Caesars Palace’s sportsbook director Jeff Davis said they’re well past last season’s NFL Draft handle, but that they offered only a few props last season.
More on the draft prop risk to come, but what I found the most surprising with not a lot of action happening, was that William Hill’s NFL Draft handle won’t be the star of the month.
“The star for us has been Russian table tennis,” Bogdanovich said. “We put up 90 matches a day and each match is only 30 minutes, and we also do in-play wagering and we’re getting unbelievable volume on it all every day.”
Bogdanovich wouldn’t give a number on their daily handle, but I got the idea it was well over $100,000 a day in Nevada alone.
“We’ve tried it all with the limited wagering opportunities,” Bogdanovich said. “We’ve tried chess, sumo wrestling, and some different soccer leagues, but Russian table tennis was the one that found a daily niche with quite a few bettors. They keep coming back to play.”
Bogdanovich says the win on table tennis has been small, but the handle has been large enough so far to possibly keep it long-term when all the other American sports get back into action.
“It’s possible they’re only betting it because there’s nothing else to bet on, but it looks as though there’s a good enough following to keep it going when the other leagues come back and see what happens,” said Bogdanovich.
As for the NFL Draft props, the player getting the most attention is where Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa will be drafted.
“Tua has generated all kinds of opinions,” Bogdanovich said. “We opened his draft position at 4.5 and after taking a few bets under and rumors of a few teams possibly trading down to get him, we dropped him to 3.5 and it’s been bet up the other way with bettors having possible concerns about his health taking us to over -320.
“At the same time, the other QB who is expected to be the No. 2 or No. 3 QB selected hasn’t been bet much as we’ve been steady at 5.5 after opening at 6.”
Caesars’ Davis said that their biggest risk of the draft is Tua being drafted by the Jaguars (currently ninth pick) or by the Raiders (12th or 19th).
Another area where Tagovailoa has generated interest at William Hill is the “third quarterback drafted” prop. He was listed as high as +700, however, it is now a -110 co-favorite with Oregon’s Justin Herbert.
William Hill books have had several players’ draft positions move with eight players moving up at least four draft positions and two players dropping at least four positions with movement based on bets but also adjusting on the fly with no bets based on rumors and quality information from respected reporters.
“One of our most one-sided bets has come on the number of offensive linemen drafted in the first round to be over 5.5,” Bogdanovich said. “It’s been a one-way train that pushed us up to 6.5. The wide receivers over 5.5 was also initially a one-way train going up to over -250, but we’ve settled at over -175 recently.“
Out of all this, what I’m impressed about the most is these sportsbooks taking their game to the next level during a pandemic with not only the NFL Draft props but finding a hidden gem with Russian table tennis. The hustle is inspiring. Normalcy is near.