World Cup Fever

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Depending on who you talk to, you’ll get a wide array of opinions of just how popular soccer is in the United States. Some will say the sport is too slow because Americans live for the action packed fast sports such as football, while others will contend that it is, without question, the greatest sport in the world.

The World Cup kicks off this Friday in South Africa and while the debate goes on throughout America as to where soccer’s interest ranks among all the vast sports the United States has to offer, there is no debating the impact it is having in Las Vegas Sports Books.

World Cup Overview

Beyond the multiple sheets of odds and propositions offered at several sports books in the same fashion as we see for the Super Bowl, the best barometer to measure the World Cup’s importance – or expected importance – is by the amount of promotional dollars spent by several casinos to get the people who do like soccer through the doors.

Sports Books have limited marketing budgets where close to 90% of all allotted funds for the year are saved entirely for the American pro football season. This year, several casinos are offering more than they ever have in conjunction with the World Cup by the way of prizes, commemorative gifts and team jerseys.

World Cup Soccer Props c/o Hilton’s

The showrooms in casinos, usually reserved for musical talents, the Super Bowl and maybe even the first weekend of March Madness, are having their doors opened wide all over the city in an attempt to capture the prospective large crowds. Just like they do for the Super Bowl, they’ll be offering all types of drink specials sponsored by the local beverage companies and food specials.

Could it really be that there are this many soccer fans out there in Las Vegas, whether locals or visiting, or is it merely a promotional shot in the dark hoping to grab onto any event during these lean months in the current economic climate. It may be a little of both, but based on the way the World Cup betting has gone the last few events, there is strong reason to believe that if you open the doors for the World Cup, they will come.
“We’ve seen a rise in handle each of the last few World Cups,” said Coast Resorts Director of Race and Sports Bob Scucci. “I think it’s a combination of a few things. There’s a big difference from the matches being on early in the day to being primarily on the graveyard shift as was the case in 2002 in South Africa.”

South Point Sports Book Director Bert Osborne agrees. “I was amazed at the handle eight years ago for all the games with start times when most people are sleeping, and then to see what we did for the Germany event four years ago, it really showed that it wasn’t just soccer fans that enjoyed it, we had our regular sports bettors throwing the games in their parlays and having educated opinions on the matches.”

World Cup Soccer Props c/o Lucky’s

Several casinos are even catering to an audience that isn’t necessarily a regular sports bettor, but that have a huge soccer following just to get them through the doors with hopes of creating brand loyalty. The Latino radio stations and newspapers have been promoting some of these parties in anticipation for the Friday match between Mexico and South Africa and where to go.

The Coast Resorts properties of the Orleans, Gold Coast and Sam’s Town will be opening up their showrooms for all the Mexico matches.

The South Point will also have their showroom open for all the matches with a little extra emphasis towards Mexico.

“Because there is such a broad market for the Mexican national team, we will be opening viewing parties with whoever Mexico plays, no charge, free admission with plenty of food and drink specials,” said Scucci.

World Cup Soccer Props c/o ‘M’ Resort

For betting action on the World Cup, nothing beats the M Resort’s sports book. As noted earlier, M Resort is offering Asian Handicap Betting – also called Hang Cheng Betting – after gaining approval from Nevada regulators.

This style of betting, which tends to move wagers closer to even-money bets, as opposed to laying large odds, is wildly popular in the Far East, particularly in games of soccer.

Ordinarily, soccer betting has three possible wagers – either side and the possible draw. With Asian Handicap Betting, players make a single side bet, which is in fact two bets made at the same time.

The two bets are “factored” from a single handicap line, thus is a bet on two different handicap lines simultaneously.

M Resort also has a myriad of proposition bets, including head-to-head matchups of which team will advance further; which teams will advance to the second round; which teams will win their group; total group points; and total team goals, just to name a few.

Over at the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book, the only place that opens up their theater weekly for NFL games, they will be doing the same for the World Cup, and Executive Director Jay Kornegay isn’t stopping there.

“Because this is such a big event, and we’ve seen such growth every four years, I thought we’d do some things like we do for our Football Central Sunday NFL games by giving away cool commemorative items when making World Cup wagers here.”

By making a $25 bet at the Hilton, depending on how long supplies last, you get your choice of a World Cup key-chain or Hilton Cup T-shirt. All who view the matches in the theater or in the lounge will be eligible to win a regulation size World Cup soccer ball with all the nation’s flags colored on it, no purchase necessary.

“We do just about every series for the club level soccer teams all year long and we’ve seen consistent growth in that area to believe that we do have a market like never before for this year’s World Cup,” Kornegay said.

The Hilton is one of two Las Vegas books that does offer the most comprehensive lineup of weekly soccer lines for all leagues, with the Lucky’s chain of sports books being the other.

Lucky’s will be kicking off the World Cup event with a pre-draft party Thursday night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at their Terrible’s casino location on Paradise. They’ll have live radio remotes and also will be giving away jerseys and $50 future wagers just for showing up and making your own wager in that time frame, along with offering $1 beers.

Note that Lucky’s also might be the only sports book in town with a World Cup parlay card. It’s a “ties reduce” card so that ties don’t lose, but they reduce the odds to the next parlay level.

For the big England-USA match on Saturday, the NASCAR Café has transformed itself into somewhat of an English Pub with hopes of attracting many of the lads from abroad. Not only have they changed their hours of operation to accommodate all the games, they made additions to their beer taps and cuisine.

To show how serious they are about attracting as many England fans as they can, they have added Guinness, Bass and Newcastle beer on tap along with getting traditional style “real” pint glasses. They also have added seven new traditional style English dishes (didn’t know they had more than two culinary delights they called their own) to their menu that include the always delicious gammon and eggs.

The NASCAR Café is also bringing in Brian Blessing from ESPN Radio and Jon Barr – the Cockney-driven “I’m gonna sell you a car guy” – to help promote the venue and draw more soccer fans with a lean towards England.

Beyond all the promotions and the excitement the casinos offer, I like to think of the World Cup as more than just a sporting event, but as a means of bonding and creating new friends from places far away that we may never have considered a friendship with otherwise.

In a country like the United States that is so broad with citizens that hail from other countries, soccer is the one sport that kind of unites us all together. We may be all waving different colored flags in support of our mother countries, but the common bond and conversation piece of soccer is universal.

Just take the work place at, say, a casino for example. Whether it’s Jose from Mexico in Food and Beverage, Kenyatta from Cameroon at the front desk or Delphine from France in housekeeping, you may have never talked or had common ground on any matter even though you’ve worked in the same place for a few years, but when the World Cup comes around, the barriers are dropped.

The morning water cooler talk now has to have continuous water re-fills just because there are so many willing participants to discuss the topic and be engaged like never before. “Hey Jose, how about that goal last night?”

More than the game itself, that is what I love about soccer the most. So go out and hit one of these places this week; have a pint, make some bets, get some gear and make some friends.

 

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