Madness hardly that for Vegas books

Apr 7, 2009 7:36 PM
by Mark Mayer |

The handle was off and the excitement down from past NCAA men’s basketball tournaments as Monday’s final only added to the disappointment.

"The bettors had the upper hand throughout the tournament just betting on favorites," said Jay Kornegay, director of race and sports operations at the Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook. "Without the upsets of past years, the books were on the short end. Overall, the handle was a little bit down from last year, especially after the first weekend. But, it wasn’t really bad."

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Kornegay said that the betting was split between Michigan State and UNC, but that the house lost with the game going over the total. In fact, North Carolina scored more points in the first half (55) than any team had in NCAA finals history. The 89 combined points pretty much cemented a final total over the projected 153½.

"We did have some decent wagering that came in on the underdog (Michigan State) money line," Kornegay said. "Basically the tournament this year was predictable from the second round to the Final Four. I think it hurt having teams like Maryland and Arizona make the tourney instead of mid-majors like San Diego State, St. Mary’s and Creighton. I think what makes March Madness great is having lesser known teams have a shot at beating the big guys. We just didn’t have that many buzzer beaters."

Dave Pemberton, director of race and sports operations for Harrah’s properties, seconded Kornegay’s thoughts on this year’s tourney. "Betting was way down for us compared to past years," he said. "It just wasn’t an exciting tourney. The favorites won easily most of the time and there just wasn’t the excitement building from past years."

The M Resort drew a big crowd for the title game with similar results to the Hilton. "The over really hurt us," said Mike Colbert, race and sports manager at M. "Carolina and the over was the worst case scenario. However, we were really saved with the in-running wagering. We did really well off that because most bettors stuck with Michigan State at +7½ as the money line kept increasing. It got to +200 and they were still on the Spartans."

The tournament final did work quite well for five people in the Station Casinos "Last Man Standing" contest, who will divide the winner’s purse of $43,375. All five entrants had North Carolina to win the national championship.