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Nick Bogdanovich had heard of the Faroe Islands, the archipelago out there between Scotland and Iceland. But Burundi and Turkmenistan?

The director of trading at William Hill US did not even know those two nations existed, much less possessed soccer leagues that would one day quench his thirsty clientele during a bleak sports betting period.

“Two countries I’d never even heard of,” he says, laughing. “We were scouring the entire globe for something to book. It was Sumo wrestling, darts, anything we could throw (against the wall) to see if it stuck. Interesting, but challenging.”

The Faroese Premier League satiated some punters, as did the Yokary Liga in Turkmenistan (in central Asia) and the Amstel Ligue in Burundi (400 miles west of Kilimanjaro in Africa). On some far-away betting sites, the Liga Primera in Nicaragua and the V.League 1 in Vietnam filled that void.

When the German Bundesliga returned May 16 with six matches, Bogdanovich saw about twice as much business on Fußball as is customary, buoyed by televised matches and scant wagering competition.

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Apps at Circa Sports and William Hill never went dark during the coronavirus pandemic, and Circa also posted lines on the Belarussian Premier League. But the Bundesliga ruled.

“Since it became clearly the world’s top soccer league being played at the time, I think that led to more interest from the betting public than it would have received otherwise,” says Circa sportsbook manager Chris Bennett.

The South Point’s app service returned in early May. For some Bundesliga matches, oddsmaker Vinny Magliulo has seen four to five times the normal amount of handle.

“Oh my gosh, yeah,” he said. “The fact that it’s on TV makes it even more popular. It is quality, they’re all professionals … but the English Premier League is (number) one; the Bundesliga is right there after it.”

Last Wednesday, matches were played, in empty stadia, in each of soccer’s four main leagues—England’s Premiership, Italy’s Serie A, Spain’s La Liga and the Bundesliga —for the first time since March 8.

The Champions League, the annual season-long tournament that features the best clubs from Europe’s best leagues, returns with four matches Aug. 7. Ligue 1 in France will allow up to 5,000 fans when it resumes July 10.

Major League Soccer, without fans, is scheduled to come back in Orlando with a month-long tournament, starting July 8. At Caesars, LAFC is the favorite at 4-1 odds, followed by Atlanta United (7-1). FC Cincinnati and newcomer Nashville SC are the 125-1 long shots.

Vegas sportsbook executives don’t expect significant MLS action, but they welcome the expanded menu. Magliulo plans to boost those totals a bit at the beginning of the tournament, then proceed accordingly.

“That’s way down in the pecking order,” says Bogdanovich. “I hope it picks up, but if you told me we will do exactly the same MLS business as we always do, it wouldn’t surprise me.”

For those on both sides of the counter, the long hiatus and the fact that the matches are being played without supporters in attendance are tricky wrinkles in establishing lines and speculating on them.

William Hill and Circa rely upon odds generated in Europe, while Magliulo cooked those factors into the Bundesliga numbers.

“We had to make totals higher, and underdogs were much more live,” he says. “When you look at the results, the underdogs have come in at a higher clip, so the favorites were not as big of a price. And totals have been higher — we even posted some 4s.”

A soccer match with a 3½ total is rare. German away teams—not including matches played at Bayern Munich — have gone an unofficial 38-18-21 in all competitions over the past five weeks.

Bayern Munich, the German power closing in on its eighth consecutive Bundesliga championship, is 9-0 since resuming; it had gone 10-0-1 in 11 matches before the break. Die Bayern has won all five of its matches at Allianz Arena — outscoring foes 17-5, an average of 3.4-1. Giving 1.5 goals on its own turf might be beneficial.

The league’s decided road edge was highlighted Saturday by Borussia Dortmund, a 2-0 victor at RB Leipzig, Die Roten Bullen’s first defeat inside its Red Bull Arena since Oct. 2, 2019, 18 matches ago.

Nigel Seeley, the professional punter-handicapper based in Bromley, England, notes that it’s long been wise to select road sides in Germany.

“It’s always been provident in the Bundesliga, with one of the highest away percentages in European soccer,” he says. “But certainly, since its return, the away-team win percentage has gone up. And it’s gone up highest on the away favorite, which is common sense.”

Early on in the Premiership, he noted a low-scoring trend, information that might have benefited Doug “the Sheriff” Fitz. The proprietor of the free handicapping service, Fitz often taps the vast data bases at Bet Labs Sports for direction. Friday, he took Over 2.5 goals in Saturday’s West Ham match at Wolverhampton.

Among the unknowns were the long hiatus and empty stands. The Wanderers beat the Hammers, 2-0.

“I don’t really know if the layoff or lack of fans have anything to do with it,” said Fitz. “Like everyone else, I’m kind of flying by the seat of the pants … if we get an indication, I’ll do some tweaking.

“But Turkmenistan soccer? No, I didn’t even know there was such a thing.”

About the Author

Rob Miech

Veteran sportswriter Rob Miech covers soccer and does features for Gaming Today. He has written about college hoops for the Las Vegas Sun, CBS SportsLine and the Pasadena Star-News. He is the author of four books, including Sports Betting for Winners.

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