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ESPN exaggerates sportsbooks’ demise

Oct 23, 2007 1:02 AM

The way ESPN tells it, Nevada sports books were brutalized if not brought to their collective knees by astute football bettors last season.

According to a report on its "E:60" news magazine show, ESPN reported that Nevada sports books in 2006 were "hemorrhaging cash" as "millions of dollars were pouring in on a small number of games" during the college football season.

Those games, according to ESPN, were released by handicapper "Dr. Bob" Stoll of San Francisco, California — whom the network labeled the "hottest sports handicapper in the world."

The crux of the ESPN piece was that Stoll’s selections were so accurate that sports books in the Silver State were losing so badly that many of them subscribed to Stoll’s service in order to get a jump on which games would be bet heavily.

Gaining that information, the books would presumably "adjust the line accordingly before (Stoll’s) customers could bet," according to ESPN.

The problem with the report is that it strayed from reality.

"Last football season — just like this year — the bettors did well over the first two weeks or so," said a Las Vegas sports director who asked not to be identified. "But the line-makers here adjusted rather quickly, like they always do, and we’re now on pace for a record season — just like last year."

Indeed, Nevada revenue reports reveal that sports books had a banner football season in 2006.

Here’s a breakdown of the amount won on football for the 2006 season:

”¡ September: $18.6 million (9.4% hold), plus $1.2 million on parlay cards (9.6% hold)

”¡ October: $20.3 million (8.5% hold), plus $6.5 million on parlay cards (36.7% hold)

”¡ November: $26.5 million (11.8% hold), plus $6.5 million on parlay cards (44.4% hold)

”¡ December: $21.6 million (11% hold), plus $3.8 million on parlay cards (35% hold).

Moreover, the notion that a Nevada sports book would subscribe to a tout’s service in order to adjust its lines brought mostly laughter from bookies contacted by GamingToday.

"No bookmaker or odds-maker worth his salt would ever do something so amateurish," said the sports director at a locals casino in West Las Vegas. "If anyone on my staff did it, he’d be out looking for another job."

Nonetheless, the ESPN story was accurate in reporting that Stoll had a good run of selections last season. Those who use his service claim he reached nearly 60 percent winners last year, with a lifetime winning percentage of about 55 percent.

But this year his clients are probably cursing the good "Dr. Kervorkian" as his selections have been horrific enough to send some bettors to the nearest cliff.

Entering last weekend, Stoll’s picks were so far below 50 percent that they could conceivable qualify as go-against selections.

According to Dr. Bob’s web site, his "best bets" in college football so far are a dismal 13-22, while his "Star Basis" selections were a pulse-stopping 31-60. That’s a collective win rate of 34.9 percent.

On the ESPN broadcast, Stoll boasted, "There are hot handicappers that come along, have great years, then the next year they’re losing. That’s just hasn’t been my pattern."

Perhaps he should check again. Last weekend, Stoll’s college football selections were a wrist-cutting 4-9 against the point spread.

As ESPN reported, someone is "hemorrhaging," but it isn’t the Nevada sports book industry.