Week 15 in the NFL saw New England clinch an NFL record eighth straight division title and Oakland lock up its first playoff appearance since 2002. At the same time those two squads helped hand another losing week to the majority of Las Vegas sportsbooks.
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s seven of the last eight weeks most books have lost or broke even, which makes it the most horrendous NFL season Las Vegas has ever seen.
“Outside of the Steelers, we won all the morning games, but they were small wins – all under six figures,” said MGM Resorts race and sports VP Jay Rood. “We lost every afternoon game and the total losses were more than double what we won in the morning. The worst was the Patriots and the Falcons, which were both over six-figure losses by themselves.”
The Falcons’ 41-13 home win over the 49ers (+13.5) was the eighth time this season they have covered and gone OVER the total (52) in 14 games. The public has been jumping on the 13-to-5 two-teamer all season once the trend got rolling with the NFL’s highest scoring team. In Sunday’s case, they were playing a San Francisco defense that allows the most points in the league.
The Patriots (-3) ground out a 16-3 win at Denver, where they lost twice last season, but the public was correct with the Broncos having trouble running the ball and being able to score despite multiple opportunities given to them.
The NFL is supposed to be gravy for the books with parity and the spreads being the equalizer, but not this year. The steamroller kept going with the popular teams. The Raiders were one of them, however, one sportsbook was able to escape the wrath of the Death Star.
“We had a 9-to-1 ticket and cash count on the Raiders, but we never moved off of 3, so that helped us a little bit,” said Stratosphere oddsmaker Hugh Citron. “We had hardly anything on the Chargers.”
The Raiders ticket count disparity in Las Vegas was just like the San Diego residents’ fan appeal at the game where Charger fans were scarce at Qualcomm (Jack Murphy) Stadium. I’ve seen some massively weighted fan support for road teams at Arizona over the past 20 years, but nothing like the roar Raider Nation provided Sunday in their 19-16 win. There hasn’t been a decibel level at that place like we saw Sunday for the Raiders since Leon Durham muffed a grounder in the 1984 NLCS.
The Stratosphere’s move to stay with Oakland at -3 afforded them the ability to push on the game, meaning they weren’t paying on large parlays as much as other places that had the Raiders -2.5 because a few sharp bettors had shown an interest in the Chargers at +3.
The Stratosphere, along with the Golden Nugget, were the lone Rangers on Sunday that showed a profit in Vegas.
When Golden Nugget book boss Tony Miller was asked if he survived on the day, he was happy to report the epidemic throughout the town didn’t hit his downtown and Laughlin books.
“No, we had a great day today,” Miller said. “We still need the Cowboys, but no matter what happens we’re going to be a winner.”
The Buccaneers would cover +7 in a 26-20 loss at Dallas, which kept the total UNDER 47.5 and didn’t help many books.
Once a public team, Dallas has quickly lost favor with them after failing to cover its last four games. Tampa Bay had its five-game win streak end but has covered the last six.
“We needed a Dallas blowout win,” said Station Casinos sports ook director Jason McCormick. “All other results were bad. Teasers take their toll.”
The four-way teaser win with each side and total cashed in that game. It was another dagger into the hearts of most books. However, MGM books weren’t affected by it.
“We didn’t lose on parlays (or teasers), which is kind of surprising,” said Rood. “Most of the damage done was on straight bets.”
And the crazy thing was the winless Browns weren’t the recipients of being the most hated team in the league by the books despite dropping to 0-8 ATS in their last eight games in a 33-13 loss at Buffalo (-10.5).
Sharp money left Cleveland alone for the first time in weeks and they were right to do so. However, the public still threw whoever the Browns and the 49ers were playing in their parlays, and cashed again. Those two dregs of the NFL have now gone a combined 4-23-1 ATS this season and the public has been all over it.
“The wise guys aren’t the ones beating us. It’s the $20 to $100 bettor with the parlays,” said Westgate SuperBook VP Jay Korneagy. “They take a regular three-teamer and then add whatever teams are playing the Browns and 49ers every week to make it a five-teamer.”
That’s a tough road to finagle and the books can’t make up 20-to-1 five-team parlay payout odds every week and that’s what been happening this season.
Overall in Week 15, the favorites went 6-7 ATS and the popular OVER plays went 6-7, including cold weather games at Chicago, where the Bears (+4.5) covered their fifth straight in a 30-27 loss to the Packers and at Buffalo in the Bills (-10.5) win against the Browns. The Bears’ cover helped the books a ton.
The casino bean counters are asking questions weekly about what can be done to stop the slide in the books, and they hate that they can’t forecast book numbers to an exact science like they do table games and slots, but it is what it is.
Every once in a while there’s a hiccup. Last season was one of the best in the NFL for the books, but the tide has definitely turned in 2016.
The best piece of optimism I can offer to all my bookie friends fielding questions in executive meetings – with the tiresome bean counter questions – is that 2017 is going to look so much better in month over month comparisons. There’s only one way to go and it’s up.