Will there be romance between bettors & XFL?

January 30, 2001 7:49 AM
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While players and cheerleaders are encouraged to date in the newly formed Xtreme Football League, a more important question is whether sports bettors will embrace wagering on XFL games?

Starting Saturday, the XFL, formed by NBC-TV and World Wrestling Federation CEO Vince McMahon, will play its inaugural games. The eight-team league will try to offer a more exciting brand of football than the National Football League.

"Since the games will be on Saturdays at 5 p.m. and on Sundays, and it will be on NBC or UPN, wagering should be good, but still not great," said Bally’s race and sports book manager John Avello. "Timing (at this point in the year) couldn’t be better. We’ll know after a couple of weeks if bettors will like it."

For bettors and sports books, the league is in a feeling-out process.

"When we first started taking bets on the WNBA (four years ago), you look at the rosters and who is coaching," Avello said. "After that, you take a ‘let’s see what happens’ approach."

In the past, there have been lines on the now-defunct United States Football League (USFL) and a line annually on the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) championship — the Grey Cup.

On the XFL, for now, bettors can only wager up to $500 (or up to $1,000 at certain casinos) a game. New Frontier sports book manager Rob Terch said his book’s limit is $500.

There will be four-team parlays, according to Avello, but over/unders won’t be available — yet.

"You probably won’t see that the first few weeks," he said.

According to Avello, lines for the upcoming weekend games probably won’t be available early in the week.

"It’s not that important," Avello added. "It’s not like college football or the NFL. There will be no rush to get it up Monday or Tuesday."

At Caesars Palace, lines and futures were up last Friday afternoon trying to catch potential Super Bowl bettors over the past weekend.

Will there be teasers?

"Probably, (but) eventually down the road," Avello said.

Future bets were first available at New Frontier last week. The Los Angeles Xtreme opened the favorite at 3-1, followed by the Memphis Maniax 4-1, Orlando Rage 9-2, Las Vegas Outlaws 6-1, Birmingham Thunderbolts 8-1, New York-New Jersey Hitmen 10-1, San Francisco Demons 12-1, and Chicago Enforcers 15-1.

Since there is a Las Vegas team, will the line be tilted one way or another?

"Probably not," Avello said. "People aren’t going to be worried about that aspect. They want to bet the winner."

Another factor is the extra-point rule. There will be no extra-point kicks. Instead, teams will have to run or pass for one point from the two-yard line. Since the clock will be running during point-after attempts, the defending team can recover a fumble or intercept a pass to return it the other way for one point.

"Key number (lines) in the NFL are three, seven and 10," Avello said. "Seven may not be as an important (wagering) number as in the NFL."

In the XFL, there will be no fair catches on punts. Any punt traveling more than 25 yards will be a live ball that can be recovered by either team. Also, the "bump and run" between wide receivers and pass defenders will be legal.

"Hopefully, it will be a competitive league," Caesars Palace sports book manager Chuck Espisito said, "with some of the rules that are existing, that will capture the fans’ interest."

The league also will use a 35-second clock between plays when plays are whistled dead, but 25 seconds where there is no stoppage. Also, a receiver or defender will only need one foot inbound to complete a reception or interception. A quarterback is ruled down when forward progress is stopped, meaning no "in-the-grasp" rule.

The season will end April 21 with the championship game, also called "The Big Game At The End." There will be two playoff games (similar to semifinal format) April 14 and 15.

The regular season ends April 8. All teams play each weekend. Only one game won’t be nationally televised all season (Feb. 4, Memphis at Birmingham). The Nashville Network (TNN) will also air games.

You just might fall in love with this league.