Books pained by toeing line at Super Bowl XLII

February 19, 2008 7:31 AM
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Did Nevada sports books gamble a bit themselves when they elected not to move the Super Bowl line further down from the Patriots -12 after getting a huge influx of early money on the Giants after the line opened up at -14 for Super Bowl XLII?

And did that lack of adjustment possibly contribute to the sports books biggest loss ever and second in the last 18 years in the Super Bowl — a $2,573,103 hit statewide — when the Giants upset the Patriots?

Not that long ago, before corporate America and its bean counters started taking over the casinos in the Silver State, sports book directors who had an imbalance of money on one side would quickly move the number hoping to entice gamblers to consider the other side and to try and get near two-way action on a game — the goal of sports books to guarantee some kind of profit for their casinos from the 10% juice.

And had a sports book director moved his line to -10, or if it had opened up around -10, would that book have received a rush of gamblers trying to get down on then undefeated New England at that perceived fair price? And would others have followed, possibly balancing out that their one-sided Giants’ action, especially in terms of scaring off some of the money line bettors at a shorter price?

One newspaper reported a well-known sports book director wrote tickets at his casino on the point spread on the Giants at a 2-to-1 ratio and on the money line at a 30-to-1 ratio. With such an imbalance, why not move both lines to stem some of the liability from all the Giants money just in case they did somehow upset the Patriots?

Cal Neva sports book operator Nick Bogdanovich, who earned a reputation for his willingness to move lines and give the public what they wanted in stints at Binion’s Horseshoe, The Stratosphere, Golden Nugget and Mandalay Bay, thinks the sports books really misread where the late money would end up going in the Big Game.

"The braintrust had a horrible read on which direction the interest would go in terms of cash flow," Bogdanovich says on the website Vegas Sports Masters (www.vegassportsmasters). "The braintrust that put out the opening line in Las Vegas expected a lot of Patriots money to come in. They knew the public typically backs favorites in the big games.

"They also thought the public would be rooting for New England to make history with a 19-0 sweep of the season. That led to an opening number that was way out of line recent reality of the teams."

Bogdanovich, a local and graduate of Western High School, thinks the books overestimated how much late Patriots action they would get.

"The line was basically too high for two weeks because of false expectations about how the money would come in and how the game would be played," he wrote.

"Oddsmakers are supposed to be trying to split the action so they can ensure a profit from the vigorish for their employers. This may go down in history as the worst job ever of doing that from the Vegas braintrust. They weren’t trying to split the action or they would have moved their lines more aggressively."

Another Las Vegan highly respected for his knowledge of the industry, Jimmy Vaccaro, also thought the opening number may have been a bit too much — he said he would have put it around -12½ — but said that it’s way too easy to second guess at this point in time.

"The 14 may have been a little bit high. Maybe the opening number should have been around 12," Vaccaro said. "But in hindsight it’s very easy to pick winners and losers. It’s real easy to talk when you’re not in the foxhole. Sometimes they get the money, sometimes they don’t."

And Vaccaro nailed the reality about what ultimately ended up being the proverbial nail in the sports books’ collective coffins.

"Sometimes people say ”˜They opened that game at 14. They must have got murdered.’" Vaccaro said. "Well the murder didn’t happen at the 14, or 13½. It didn’t even happen at 12 or 11½. The betting action on that was probably equal. Remember, the murder always comes on the money line. It’s been no different in the past 20 some odd years. And the public is getting more in tune with the money line."

Vaccaro knows what all sports books operators as well as Giants and Patriots fans have replayed in their heads over and over — that if David Tyree doesn’t make that phenomenal catch with 59 seconds to go — we’re probably not even talking about sports books in the Silver State losing a penny.

"That all being said, ”˜The joints didn’t move quick enough, the joints didn’t do this.’ Remember this: They (the sports books) were 30 seconds away from winning that bet (Patriots money line)," Vaccaro said. "If Asante Samuel catches that interception or if David Tyree didn’t make that catch, simply everybody in Nevada would have had great day because I would bet that nobody in the state would have lost any money."

Although the Nevada Gaming Control Board doesn’t release figures on money line bets for the Super Bowl, almost all sports books directors and sharps agree it was those money line wagers that made the difference between a winning day and a losing day.

But the sports books can take solace in the fact that maybe they learned a little something for Super Bowl XLIII and that the $2.5 million loss broke down to around only $14,788 apiece for the 174 sports books in Nevada. And the casinos can also take solace in the fact that the revenue generated from the Super Bowl from tourism in Sin City easily outdistanced the amount lost from is game.