When the first kickoff of the NFL season went up Sunday morning at the South Point sports book, the hundreds in attendance all cheered in unison.
It was a nice way for the betting public to show their appreciation for pro football being back, but as the results started to come in one after another with the underdogs going 10-3 against-the-spread – six winning outright, the only cheers came from the casino accounting department as nearly every sports book had a huge day.
“This was the best opening day we’ve ever had here,” said Golden Nugget sports book director Tony Miller. “Just about every game we needed came through for us beginning with our biggest, the Falcons, and then the rest just followed suit like the Browns, Dolphins and then the Panthers. It wasn’t a good day for those that bet parlays on the afternoon.”
Many sports books live and die by the sword of parlay cards, especially the books located in neighborhoods off the Strip like the South Point, Coast Resorts and Station Casinos where locals are a little more experienced at the process of betting a little to win big with an eight or 10-team parlay. When the favorites all unite to cover on a Sunday, these books get buried worse than the Strip properties. When the dogs come in like Sunday, they win more.
Jason McCormick, director of Station Casinos’ 18 books across the valley said the Falcons beating the Saints 37-34 as 3-point underdogs was their gateway to success. Miami knocking off New England, 33-20 as 4-point underdogs was great too, but “the Bills were key to knocking off teaser and money line liability for the rest of the day.”
After the 10 am (PT) games posted, there were only three games remaining for the bettors to try and recoup all their losses from the morning, and those games didn’t turn out so well, either.
The 49ers, in front of a surprisingly large sea of 49er-red at Cowboys Stadium, beat Dallas, 28-17, as 3.5-point road favorites. The public was right on that one, but unfortunately, they guessed wrong on the other two.
The public loved the Buccaneers at home against the Panthers and the sharps loved them even more when Ronde Barber, who was covering the game for Fox Sports reported a day earlier that Cam Newton wouldn’t start at QB because back-up Derek Anderson came to the production meeting, which is something a back-up never does.
Even prior to Barber’s speculation – and we thank him for it, more should follow suit – sharp money was betting against Newton’s banged up ribs and had pushed the Bucs from -1 to -3 (Carolina opened -2.5 in April) . When the report began to carry some weight and the public got behind it, most books got to as high as -5. But in the end, it was the Panthers dominating defense that had Newton and Anderson’s back in their 20-14 road win to ruin Lovie Smith’s Tampa debut.
At this juncture, nearly every book in town was jumping for joy as there was only one game remaining on the day and most of the serious parlay jeopardy had been eliminated. The Broncos opened the week as 7.5-point favorites and quickly got as high as -9.5 at the Golden Nugget where they kind of stayed ahead of the curve on the number throughout the day.
“There was so much public money on Denver and even when I raised it higher than the market number, I was still getting action on them with limit straight bets and parlays,’ said Miller. “They couldn’t get enough of Denver.”
The Broncos had the game in control, 31-10, with 9:49 left and it looked to be an easy win for about 75 percent of the bettors with live tickets, but Indianapolis would score two late touchdowns to make it 31-24, which gave the few Colts bettors, many who may have already crumpled and tossed their bet tickets, an unsuspecting back-door cover.
In some cases around the Las Vegas Strip, it doesn’t matter what the public plays because they’re dealing with a certain clientele that local books will never get. In the case of Wynn Las Vegas book director John Avello, he wasn’t as giddy as the rest of his colleagues after the days results because of heavy hitting house players that get virtually anything they want in regards to limits at the bet window.
Avello wasn’t even sweating football on the day.
“A Broncos cover would have been bad for us, but our biggest decision on the day came from baseball where we had a guest wager (six-figures) heavy on the Tigers to beat the Giants (ESPN Sunday Night Baseball).”
The Tigers won, 6-1, but with all the underdogs covering in the NFL, Avello was still able to withstand such a huge blow in baseball and show a profit for the day, just not as big as those houses dealing with the frenzied parlay bettors.
Saturday ‘a grind’
On the regular betting board for college football Saturday, favorites went 18-25 ATS on a day South Point sports book director Bert Osborne called “a grind.”
“We would win a few and lose a few and we didn’t really come out on top until the two late games where Hawaii and UTEP (both big underdogs) covered.”
Oregon State, favored by 9.5 points, led 38-7 after three quarters at Hawaii and every small bettor in town thought they had an easy winner to close out their Saturday. But Hawaii would go on a 23-0 run in the fourth, and only lose by eight, 38-30, which gave the Rainbow Warriors the massive back-door cover.
Despite most sports books being long on parlays with the favored Beavers, they moved the number with respected money that had bet Hawaii down from +12 down to +9.5 by kickoff.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].