Bookmakers endure summer doldrums

Jul 24, 2001 8:38 AM

Professional golf and NASCAR racing, while not threatening to baseball’s summer rule in sports books, are starting to make inroads.

“I don’t care if there are 100 Tigers in a golf tournament,” said John Avello, race and sports book director at Bally’s. “Woods may add a little to the watching of the sport, but nobody wants to wager on him. His odds are too little.”

Avello explained that baseball, like football and basketball, has a core of players, who wager on a daily basis. And they pretty much keep the books humming while waiting for football.

“When you talk baseball, it’s not even close for the whole slate,” he said. “Maybe, on a per game basis you can make a case for golf and NASCAR gaining ground. But, on the whole, no.”

Eddie Ricca, Suncoast race and sports book director, also felt that baseball is comfortably ahead of golf and NASCAR.

“I see a minor growing interest in NASCAR as it continues to get exposure,” Ricca said. “Motorsports is something new in most of the properties. I am not real familiar with the circuit and actual drivers.

Ricca did take a few shots at baseball, which could be considered signs of weaknesses in the future.

“Baseball has been the same the last few years,” he said. “The season is stretched out through October. Also, interleague play has thrown a monkey wrench into the system. It throws the trends out of whack.”

Avello believes that Tigermania doesn’t exist in Las Vegas because nobody wants to bet him.

“The favorite only wins two or three percent of the time in golf,” Avello said. “Since Tiger came along, oddsmakers have adjusted drastically. The favorite used to be 6-1 or 7-1 in most golf tournaments. Now you’re lucky to get Tiger at 2-1. In this city, there is no anything mania.”

Primadonna Resorts, carrying NASCAR this year for the first time, has noticed an increase in motorsports interest.

“We are getting more handle each week,” said John Campopiano, shift supervisor at Primadonna race and sports book near the Nevada-California line. “People now know we have it. Baseball still has a comfortable edge during the summer.”

Campopiano also felt that seeing Woods fail to win a few tournaments would help wagering on PGA Tour events.

“Tiger actually hurts more than helps wagering,” he said. “If he starts playing bad, action should start to pick up.”

The PGA-LPGA prime-time bonanza “Battle at Bighorn” next Monday pitting Woods and Karrie Webb against British Open winner David Duval and Annika Sorenstam is getting some play in sports books, but not much.

“It’s more of a TV event than a betting event, but we will put up odds,” Avello said. “There’s no loyalty in betting. It’s strictly business. We had people coming into Bally’s watching the British Open. It wasn’t a bad take.

“We started putting up NASCAR in 1990,” Avello continued. “It’s growing by leaps and bounds. It used to be that 95 percent didn’t know what it was. Daytona is always a good handle race. The Las Vegas race always does very well.”

Robert Jaynes, assistant race and sports book manager at the Stratosphere, said that television has helped NASCAR and has enabled the sport to gain an increasing fan base.

“Watching NASCAR is a lot more exciting than watching golf, even when Tiger is playing,” Jaynes said. “Tiger does bring more betting activity, especially if he ever goes off at more than even money. The public would love to get 2-1 odds on him in any event.”

Jaynes agreed that baseball was still a solid No. 3 in wagering behind basketball and football, saying it wasn’t really fair to make the comparisons with other sports during the summer.

“There are times when we will write more NASCAR tickets if baseball has a bad matchup,” he said. “If both are good events, though, baseball will run away with it.”