UNLV betting pointers

Jul 31, 2001 5:35 AM

For the first time Nevada residents will be able to legally wager on UNLV football games.

The state gaming control board finally lifted the betting ban on UNLV and UNR, allowing casinos to post odds and accept bets.

No hotel has been more aggressive in taking advantage of this than the Imperial Palace.

The IP has put up point spreads on seven of UNLV’s 11 games, along with an over/under win total proposition of 6½ victories.

People are already betting.

“They’ve been betting UNLV to go over 6½,” said IP sports book supervisor Chuck Cunningham.

Cunningham also said there has been line movement on six of the seven Rebel games that have been posted.

According to current IP numbers, the Rebels are 3-point underdogs for their opener Sept. 1 against Arkansas.

The Rebels are 4-point underdogs against Northwestern in Week 2.

For their Sept. 14 home game against Colorado State, the Rebels are pick. Then the Rebels travel to Arizona, where they are 2-point underdogs against the Wildcats.

The IP has UNLV a 4-point favorite against BYU on Sept. 29. The next Rebel game the IP has up is the Nov. 3 matchup against Utah. UNLV is minus 7.

The Rebels conclude their regular season Nov. 17 against Air Force. The Rebels are listed as a 1½-point road underdog.

Having UNLV on the betting board should mean extra handle.

“It will bring people in not only to bet UNLV, but other games, too,” Cunningham said. “It will mean an increase.

“There definitely will be more interest in town with UNLV on the board.”

This is all good for the bettors, but what does UNLV coach John Robinson think?

“Gambling is here and part of our lives, so I don’t think we can put a shield over our eyes about it,” Robinson said. “The thing that I think everybody fears is the illegal gambling.

“In college athletics, the No. 1 fear is someone trying to influence the outcome. That’s what everybody worries about all the time.”

That’s why UNLV and UNR were always off the board in Nevada. State gaming regulators didn’t want even a hint of any potential gambling problem involving their state schools.

But they changed their mind when anti-gambling forces in Washington called them hypocrites for allowing betting on the rest of the college teams across the country.

Robinson takes a middle position on the issue. He realizes point spreads are a reality, and people are going to bet on the games whether they’re legal or not.

“I’ve lived all my life knowing there were odds on games, but it never meant anything to me,” said Robinson, who also coached USC and the Los Angeles Rams.

“I never paid any attention. It’s tough enough to win the damn game. It was never a conscious part of what I was doing.”

However, Robinson doesn’t believe the point spread should be stressed when writing or talking about the team.

“If you’re writing about odds that’s one thing,” he said. “But if you make it in a major way connected with us, then you have a headline the next day saying whoever missed the field goal didn’t beat the spread.

“If it’s advertised, and focused on, then the pressure does begin to build on the players.

“Just keep it down. Have some level of control, so the guy in the stands isn’t out there screaming for us not to win the game.

“I just don’t want it in the player’s minds where they get caught up in it.”

Robinson was upset when the Las Vegas Review-Journal ran a recent story about people being able to bet on UNLV with a picture of star Rebel quarterback Jason Thomas.

Robinson felt this was inappropriate and by running a picture of Thomas, it was guilt by association.

But this was a legitimate story from a news perspective. A photo of Thomas, or anybody connected with the UNLV football team, was needed to accompany the story so the layout would look appealing to the readers.

Yet, Robinson’s point is well taken. His players and strategy shouldn’t come into extra scrutiny now that it’s legal to bet on UNLV games.

In reality, though, it might. Hopefully fans will keep sports wagering in its proper perspective, which is entertainment and recreational.

Cunningham thinks they will.

“The loyal UNLV fan is going to be mad if they lose,” Cunningham said, “whether he has money on them or not.”

And the loyal fan should be just as happy when the Rebels win, whether they covered the spread or not.