There was a hope by every sports book director in town that once the page on the calendar turned to December, that November – the worst month in Las Vegas sports book history – would quickly be forgotten.
When they got their first whack at the new month, where the slate was fresh and clean, college football took them for ride. That resembled everything bad they had experienced in November with favorites going 10-5 against-the-spread.
One sports book director called the day a “disaster.” Some of the same terms were used to describe the weekly pummeling the books took from bettors in November. It may have been a new month, but the teams bettors liked were still holding true to their form from the previous weeks.
The slate wasn’t wiped clean. It was like November had 31 days, and day 32 was Sunday where the liability on few pro games had them reliving every agonizing Sunday from the past before it even happened.
However, Sunday was the fresh start the books were hoping for as the underdogs came to life covering seven of the 14 games with five of them winning outright.
“We had a good day with the Colts and Steelers winning,” said William Hill’s Jimmy Vaccaro. ”Those were our two biggest games of the day and they came through for us.”
For others like Jay Rood at the Mirage, another game helped tip the scales in their favor.
“The Seahawks winning at Chicago by 6-points was big not only on teasers, but also on parlays. It was the game that bettors had involved the most among the early wave of games,” Rood said.
And then when you mix in the 49ers getting upset at St. Louis, the Chiefs beating the Panthers along with underdogs like the Cardinals and Eagles covering, it’s easy to see why the bettors lost collectively on the day.
The books didn’t do well with the Texans and Packers covering, but there was nothing left for those two teams to parlay with. Bettors who took the Broncos late, either pushed or lost laying 8 or 8½. Bettors who had the Patriots pushed when the Dolphins kicked a late field goal on second down when down by 10.
The Bengals didn’t carry much weight late because most of the winning payouts were on straight bets, something the books can easily recover from. The damage for the past five weeks has been parlays, especially parlays gaining momentum in the early games, and in Week 13, that didn’t happen.
One of the classic betting scenes was when the Jets, favored by 6-points, had moved the ball all the way to first and goal at the 1 yard-line, up 7-6, with under two minutes on the clock and kneeled down. A portion of the crowd at the stadium cheered just because it clinched a rare win for the Jets, but another faction was booing and they weren’t Cardinals fans.
When looking back on Sunday’s games, there were several instances of shifts in games that affected the spread or total that perfectly exemplified why the betting on the NFL is so popular – something the league refuses to acknowledge as part of their popularity.
Why else would anyone care about whether the Buccaneers attempted a two-point conversion or not late in a decided game, or an apparent meaningless Vikings field goal attempt of a decided game?
Why else would anyone agonize when a team leading by four in a Sunday night game returns a fumble 50 yards to go up by 11, only to watch another group agonize when a last minute punt return TD put the margin of victory back to 4?
Because of the popularity, the NFL action is the bread and butter for the sports books. There’s a short window on their year to make their budgeted money, kind of like Christmas is for a department store.
The books have one last gasp at salvaging something for the final four Sundays of 2012 and something tells me their fate will be in the hands of the Raiders, Jaguars, Chiefs, Browns, Chargers and Cardinals.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Contact Micah at [email protected].