It’s been just an "okay" New Year for Las Vegas sports books thus far after the first weekend of 2010. The combination of more wins than losses with the college football bowl games and squeaking out a narrow win in week 17 NFL action kept the books in the black.
After experiencing a few tough days in 2009, most books will take it, having seen the possibilities of a perfect storm erupting on an NFL Sunday.
The games on Sunday could have really turned in to one of the worst the way things started.
"The 1 p.m. games saved our day," said Coast Resorts Director of Race and Sports Bob Scucci. "We didn’t win a single one of the nine 10 a.m. games played."
The favorites went 8-1 in the early games with the only dog covering being the Patriots, which didn’t help the books because they were a very popular pick with the public getting over a touchdown at Houston.
However, the late games were saviors for the books with all five underdogs covering, including two winning straight up.
"Even though we got sided on a few of the late games, we still made out okay on the day because of the parlay cards," said Scucci.
When the lines were initially put out last Monday, the big dilemma most sports books had was what line to offer with the Saints and Colts games, because of the uncertainty of who would play and for how long.
Because of that uncertainty and the deadline in which most books had to turn their lines in to the parlay card printers, many just left those two games off the cards.
"We left those two games off the cards and kept them available for limited wagering all week," said Scucci. "You open yourself up too much when you know a game can run 4½ to 5-points."
The Bills ran from an opener of six to eight-points against the Colts, who laid down just like everyone thought they would. The Colts rested most of their starters and let the Bills beat them down 30-7, the second week in a row the Colts have lost despite starting the year 14-0.
The Saints line ran even faster at Carolina when it eventually opened on Wednesday. The Panthers started out as 4½-point favorites and closed at -10 by kickoff Sunday, and of course the move was right. The Panthers ran all over the Saints 23-10.
The games that made the day for Coast Resorts Sports Books across Las Vegas were Seattle covering against Tennessee, Washington covering at San Diego and Oakland staying within 10-points of the Ravens.
"We got sided a little bit with Tennessee and San Diego, but overall, they turned out to be our best games just because of the huge liability created through the first nine games," he said.
The Titans originally opened as 4-point favorites and closed at 6, eventually winning by four, 17-13 at Seattle. San Diego opened as a 3½-point favorite at home to the Redskins and closed at -3 (-120), eventually winning 23-20.
The Chargers surprised many by playing many of their starters for an extended amount of time, unlike the other elite teams who clinched everything. They went full out for the win, opting to keep their momentum going heading into the playoffs with their 11th straight win. The Chargers were listed at 4 to 1 to win the Super Bowl – the fourth choice behind the Colts (9-5), Saints (3-1) and Vikings (7-2).
Coast Resorts closed out 2009 nicely with great New Year’s wins in the bowl games, which carried over into New Year’s Day.
"The Northwestern game and Ohio State were good wins for us, but as good as New Year’s Eve and Day were, the games on Jan. 2 were just as bad," said Scucci. "Connecticut was a bad decision for us with Texas Tech being the real killer."
Texas Tech had been in the news all week, which ultimately concluded with their Coach Mike Leach being fired before the New Year. Although the line didn’t waver too much from the opener that had the Red Raiders favored by seven, the public was all over them along with parlaying the over 60. When Tech finally closed out Michigan State with a 41-31 win, and it being the last game of the day posted at the books, it gave the books a tough day in only the second day of the New Year.
After three days of action, the books held a slim 2-days-to-1 win-loss record over the public, with some of the biggest decisions still yet to come in the bowl games and three weeks of NFL playoff action.
"We’re going to need Texas and Iowa pretty good and the worst case scenario for us thus far has TCU and the over coming in," said Scucci.
TCU is a solid 7-point favorite over Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl Monday night with a total of 52½. Georgia Tech is a 5-point favorite over Iowa in Tuesday’s Orange Bowl – up from the opener of three.
Alabama got most of the early straight bet action laying the opener of four against Texas in Thursday’s BCS Title game pushing the line up to 5½, but some Texas money leveled the game to where it’s sits now at Bama -3½.
This is the final game of the bowl season and the public has been including Alabama at a much higher rate on their parlays than Texas throughout the Bowl season. So instead of having extended risk for just a two-team parlay at 13-5 odds with side to total parlays on the game, the Books will be looking at holdover risk from the last few weeks with possibilities of paying out over 20-1 or higher for those that won their first legs of the parlay.
As for the NFL games next week, there are some good matchups which include three games that were just played last week. Dallas looks to have shaken their late season woes and appear better than ever to win a game in the Tony Romo era. Laying the Cowboys as 4½-point favorites doesn’t seem like a bad idea against an Eagles team who really wanted the win bad to get a bye week.
The one thing that just keeps lingering with me about Dallas is the combination of Wade Phillips and Romo in the playoffs who are a combined 0 for-ever. I’m still trying to figure out who looked worse in the aftermath, Romo fumbling an extra-point snap at Seattle or Phillips looking silly after the Music City Miracle while he was in Buffalo.
Las Vegas Sports Consultants Brian Blessing brought up a great point last week about these teams that had possibilities of playing each other in the wild card games again this week not wanting to show too much. The Cardinals laid down 33-7 to the Packers playing about as vanilla a scheme as possible while the Packers went for the throat early on.
How does laying three, the same line as last week with Arizona sound? In reality, the loss for the Cardinals was perfect to their form of being erratic. They have won some big games, both on the road and at home this season, while tanking a few too. Look for the real Cardinals to show up this week and for the winner of this game to make it to the NFC Championship game.
Station Casinos’ books were the first to open the games Sunday night with the Cardinals being a short two-point favorite with Las Vegas Sports Consultants suggesting Cardinals three.
The Bengals fall into the same category as the Cardinals. They’ll play the Jets again, but this time in the Jungle of Cincinnati where things will be much different for the rookie quarterback. We saw Joe Flacco take the Ravens on his back last season to the AFC Title game as a rookie, but Flacco had shown signs all last season as being a smart protector of the ball. It seems like the only time the Jets lose is when Mark Sanchez is turning the ball over, which is about half their games this year.
Stations opened the Bengals a 3-point favorite while LVSC suggested Bengals four.
Joe Flacco not turning the ball over will be pivotal this week when he takes his Ravens to New England. Everyone is talking about how no one wants to play the Patriots in the playoffs, but it appears the Ravens look to be the more playoff ready team right now just because of their great running game and consistent defense.
Stations opened the Patriots at the dead number of five while LVSC sent the Patriots -6½, obviously feeling the larger number would attract all Ravens money.