Vegas sports books stepped up for March Madness

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I had the chance to experience the NCAA Tournament at several places around town over the past two weeks and most of them were inside sports books. So I thought I’d just piece together a few notes and share some observations.

South Point: Their book is at the top of this random list with its -105 reduced juice line for all straight bets, which they began offering at the start of the Sweet 16 and will run through the Final Four this weekend.

It really is a big deal, and while I know everyone has the attitude that they’re not going to lose so it doesn’t matter, the savings really does start to add up if playing several games. It’s just another example of why Michael Gaughan doesn’t have an equal in town; he truly is a man of the people.

It also should be noted that South Point also had all 12 sports-only windows open for most of the Tournament, and no one in town can say that, especially those books that try to force horse bettors through at the same windows. It was a bit dicey at a few places with games tipping off at the same time Aqueduct was 2 minutes to post. For race players, the South Point has a race-only room with lots of open betting windows.

CG Technology: They made a concerted effort to immediately post a number on a game as soon as the matchup came about and many times found themselves with the first number offered, including off-shore. For the most part, the numbers were very good and helped set the market. They posted the first number in the world when the selection committee made the pairings as they did throughout the Tournament. Nice job!

To all the ticket writers who for the past two weeks took shorter breaks and worked extra hours for the sake of making their sports books the best experience possible for the guests – thank you!

Between teaching novices how a pointspread and pay chart works, to just pumping out tickets non-stop for hours at a time, their efforts shouldn’t go unnoticed. They are the first representation of a sports book many see and they were all great ambassadors to the industry and Las Vegas, engaging and smiling.

Westgate: The SuperBook began their free SuperContest satellite series with the NCAA Tournament where the winner next week will gain free entry into the 2015 SuperContest – last year’s winner won $736,000. The $1,500 entry to the SuperContest is too rich for many, so this gives every regular Joe a chance to participate, which I love.

The next satellite series contest starts with baseball and runs through the All-Star break. It’s free and you can sign from anywhere in the U.S. using your phone by going to Gamblino.com.

The first Thursday of the Tournament favorites went 4-12 ATS and most every book reported their biggest ever NCAA Tournament single day win. Every call and bounce of the ball the book needed to go their way happened.

Sweet 16 Friday the favorites went 4-0 ATS and every sports book got buried with massive parlay payouts. The shorter betting menu had everyone betting most of the same sides with popular favorites and the books couldn’t get a call or bounce of the ball to go their way, including an official review in the Duke-Utah game.

The TV showed a final score of 62-57, which would have given most a push at -5, with the coaches shaking hands and players walking to the locker room. But an official reviewed the video and saw a foul was called and put 0.7 seconds back on the clock and ordered free-throws to be taken by Duke – they made 1 of 2.

Final score: Duke 63, Utah 57, and 75 percent of the betting public that had Duke won instead of pushing. The entire day was a parlay bonanza the books could not escape from.

My only gripe from the entire two weeks was sound being non-existent or too low at a few books. I kept thinking “this is March Madness, but there’s no volume…I can’t hear the sneakers squeaking.” Rather than ask for the volume, I just left and went to the next book.

The most gratification I got while strolling through a few books was just seeing all the smiles and excitement from all the visiting faces that chose to make Las Vegas their destination. Win or lose, everyone had a great time, and it keeps growing every year.

Kentucky vs. ‘91 UNLV: I sent out a tweet Saturday night saying I’d make this year’s Kentucky squad -4.5 over my beloved ‘91 Rebels, who were the last team to enter the Final Four undefeated, and I got a hell storm of responses disputing the number.

My opinion came because I watched every game while attending school there and feel I knew them very well. And, the fact remains UNLV didn’t have the bench, size or graded talent of Kentucky.

The only advantage real UNLV has over this Kentucky squad is heart and age, and those aren’t exactly easy to measure in a number process like skill and player ratings.

So after catching all kinds of flack, Jeff Sherman at the Westgate told me their mythical number was Kentucky -3. MGM’s Jay Rood said, “I hate to say it, but I’d make Kentucky -6.5, and that number might be too low.” Veteran oddsmaker Kenny White told me Kentucky -4.

All the talk really is silly in the sense that it’s a pointless conversation of a game that will never happen, but it was fun to hear how much passion people still have for that Rebels squad.

“They just couldn’t run with the Rebels” was on the back of their championship shirt after beating Duke 103-73 in the 1990 National Championship game, and maybe this Kentucky squad couldn’t run with them either.

Regardless of what Kentucky does this weekend, experts are going to have a hard time convincing people Kentucky could beat that Rebel team, and I’m happy that legacy will live on forever and no one can prove either case.

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].

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