UFC helped books’ busy weekend

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After 78 days of being shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, a handful of Las Vegas race and sportsbooks opened last Thursday and found out that people still love and miss Las Vegas, and apparently they miss betting on anything.

The handle was surprisingly high despite no NBA Finals or Major League Baseball on the menu, but a gentleman found something else to bet and wagered $1 million Saturday on a UFC fight with Amanda Nunes to win laying -600.

“He’s a regular with us,” said William Hill’s head bookmaker Nick Bogdanovich of the big bettor. “He plays everything in several sports, he’s all over the place and he’s done extremely well against us.

“We haven’t done well against him at all. He used a winning Chiefs Super Bowl ticket to buy the $1 million bet.”

Nunes would win for the bettor and the William Hill loss was $166,666.70, in addition to getting his $1 million bet back. When asked how the first weekend back went overall, ­Bogdanovich was blunt.

“Yeah it was busy,” said Bogdanovich. “But hell, I’ve been busy without the casinos open just because we’ve been offering so much over the phones. It’s been everyday busy.”

William Hill has been offering every active soccer league played around the globe, South Korean baseball, and the suddenly very popular table tennis. Each of the sports has found a niche audience wanting something to follow, study and bet.

“They love the table tennis; can’t get enough, “said Bogdanovich. “I’ve never seen anything like it, a sport just coming out of nowhere that has such a large audience of people following it. It’s non-stop action with so many matches and a ton of parlays.”

But the star of the weekend for all the books was the UFC card, which garnered the most attention of the first weekend back.

“Despite losing the $1 million bet, we still won with the UFC due to three fights that went well for us which broke up lots of parlays,” Bogdanovich said. “It ended up being a winning weekend with heavy handle. We won the NASCAR race with (Kevin) Harvick winning, but got beat up a little with the driver match-ups.”

Harvick came in as the 5-1 favorite at Atlanta and was bet down to 7-2 after a $3,000 bet on him at 4-1. Whenever the favorite in a Cup Series race wins, the house usually wins as well.

The three MGM Resorts properties also saw large action with the sports they offered in their first week back.

“If you would have asked me last week I would have suggested that business would be very light, but it was much busier than I thought it would be,” said MGM Resorts sportsbook director Jeff Stoneback on Monday. “Race handle was huge for us at the three properties we had open. It was so busy at the Bellagio that they had to call in three extra ticket writers who were on furlough.”

MGM handled the most action of their weekend on the UFC bouts, but didn’t come out ahead as William Hill did.

“We got roughed up a little bit on the UFC with some large parlay wagers on a few favorites, but did well on the soccer and table tennis,” Stoneback said.

Stoneback and a crew of four others have been working out of the Mirage sportsbook hub despite the Mirage itself being closed, so Stoneback’s only gauge of the crowd size was from the money taken in and also when he took a walk Saturday night.

“I went downtown on Saturday night and the casinos at the Golden Gate, Golden Nugget, and The D were packed as if they had never closed,” Stoneback said. “It was business as usual, maybe even more crowded there than I’ve seen in a while.”  

It was a delight to talk to friends around Las Vegas and hear such wonderful things about the books opening back up, such as the continuous sanitizing throughout the entire casino. More than anything, it’s just getting back to normal. People love Las Vegas and I don’t ever think they can get it out of their system. The casinos opened their doors and people came pouring in. It was great to see.

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