Sports bettors embrace 'lottery' mentality

Oct 13, 2009 5:05 PM
Vaccaro’s View by Jimmy Vaccaro |

We turn the clocks back this month, so why not turn them back at least 30 years to a typical Super Bowl Sunday in Las Vegas.

This would be before any big cable station was parked in our city, before any hotel had invitation-only parties, before celebrity guest lists were drawn up to spice up the weekend and before room rates were ratcheted up just because of a football game.

Back then we were busy not crazy; we all enjoyed the hoopla without fighting for our professional lives. I could still get a room for a player, even if he called as late as Friday.

Betting was a different ball game as well. You walked up to the window, bet your team or maybe parlay ed it with the total. Maybe you would consider something "exotic" like a half time wager.

But beginning in the 1980s, everything went through the roof, both the festivities surrounding the Super Bowl as well as the betting menu.

Betting options expanded to first half, then quarter betting, along with props too numerous to tabulate. We all stuffed ourselves – literally and betting-ly – and it has been that way for quite a while. 

Nowadays, we still have quarter betting and halftime betting, though the popularity of each is probably in a slow decline.

So what do people want now and beyond? Bettors are looking for the "big payoff." Parlay cards, of course, have always been popular, but the number of teams bet has risen dramatically. It used to be that 3- and 4-teamers were the main course, and they still are, but 8-, 9-, and 10-teamers are now the feast, if not the just desserts. 

That old adage about the toothpick for a lumber mill rings true in the sports books. We are in lottery mode and the public likes its chances to win a year’s salary sitting in a sports book for one afternoon. 

For sports book directors, we understand that the big score is becoming the norm, especially during the long hot baseball months.

For instance, you punch in the late, final score of a game, thinking you’re having a solid day, only to find someone just hit a 6-teamer that included three big underdogs, and you blow your "cheese" for the whole day.

But it’s just an occupational hazard, probably made more dangerous these days by the changing betting patterns.

Of course, as we’ve seen before, things eventually change. Bettors will change their habits and things will run their course.

We live in fast times and everyone wants big money real fast. That scenario will probably be the basis for changes in the future.

For us behind the counter, there will be no focus groups or polls or surveys to find out what the public wants. The betting public will tell us directly what they like, and more importantly what they are just not interested in anymore.

What remains clear is everyone seems to want that "moon shot," even if they’re only using a putter.

Take care, Jimmy.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Jimmy Vaccaro