Orbiting a 15-cent line

Apr 19, 2009 7:24 PM
On The Mark by Mark Mayer |
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It’s no brainstorm to say baseball isn’t even close to measuring up with football for betting dollars in Las Vegas. But, baseball is the solid bridge we as bettors have over the summer months until football will butter our bread.

So, it’s not that surprising to see enterprising books find ways to make a profit in baseball. It can be done through parlay cards and prop bets, or simply by adjusting the money line.

Not that raising the line from 10 to 15 cents is "one small leap for man, one giant leap for mankind," but it’s the latest concept the Stratosphere, Arizona Charlie’s East and West and Aquarius (Laughlin) properties are trying to improve the house odds.

"Historically we haven’t done well on baseball," said Ed Malinowski, director of race and sports at the Stratosphere, which is the hub for the four properties. "This is a way to counter that. It’s been 15 cents since opening day and our on-going attempt to get rid of the messenger bettors (aka runners). They are the only ones who would care about a dime line."

The majority of books in Vegas use a 10-cent line and some go with 15 and 20. As for bettors, if a team is favored at say -130, the dog would get +120 with a victory. A 15-cent line at say -160 would then have a payback of +145.

"And, we’re not doing the 15-cent line for all the prices," Malinowski said. "We still have a dime line for games up to 140 and then a 15-cent line starting at 145. It’s not a major change, but enough so it does give us a little advantage without really hurting the bettors. The object is to create more business in baseball, which will in turn make things good for our customers."

The one concern Malinowski has about 15-cent lines is the possibility of losing horse players that regularly bet baseball. "So far we haven’t seen that and I hope we don’t. We do a nice horse business and need those players to continue making baseball bets throughout the season."

It’s only been a couple of weeks, but so far the Stratosphere numbers have been up for baseball despite average amount of betting.

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"The number of wagers are no different than in the past," Malinowski said. "But we’ve done well with parlays for whatever reason. The 15-cent line may have something to do with it, but I just think it’s luck. Whatever it is, I’m happy."

Another of the real innovators in the industry is Eastside Cannery’s Eric St. Clair, who has been pushing a 2-hit parlay card that should soon be approved by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

"The volume of bets for baseball has been pretty fair and I’m pleased for the company," St. Clair said. "Baseball is the lowest hold percentage of all the sports. The public is smart. They like to catch teams that are hot and bet against ones who are not. It didn’t help our book much that Washington started out 0-7."

The biggest loss for the Eastside Cannery was on opening day and basketball had a lot to do with it.

"Basketball brings more business for baseball," St. Clair said. "You will see more basketball/baseball parlays. A popular parlay that won was North Carolina/over and both the Angels and Dodgers covering on the run line. Hopefully, the NBA playoffs will bring in that kind of business."

And now for Wednesday’s best:

Marlins at Pirates: Lefty Paul Maholm (2-0, 0.87 ERA) has been as good as anyone for Pittsburgh. He’ll get a reasonable price against red hot Florida. PIRATES.

Rockies at D’backs: Arizona’s Dan Haren is 0-3 despite a glittering 1.89 ERA. That means the D’backs don’t score for him. UNDER.

Padres at Giants: San Diego’s Chris Young is 2-0. SF’s Barry Zito is 0-2 and 8-17 lifetime at AT&T Park. Z should have stayed put in Oakland. PADRES.

Braves at Nats: John Lannan is another pitcher who doesn’t get much run support. Atlanta righty Jair Jurrjens doesn’t figure to allow much to the Nats. UNDER.