Rose full of thorns for Vegas books

Jan 8, 2002 6:43 AM

Nebraska went down big in the first half and took 80 percent of the books with them.

“We lost on that game. Everybody had the favorite,” Bally’s-Paris Las Vegas race and sports book director John Avello said of last Thursday’s college football tittle game, won by the Miami Hurricanes 37-14.

“The line opened up 9½ and in some places 10,” Avello said. “By game time it was down to 8 and in some places 7½. A mindset developed that speed killed the Midwest teams and almost all the late money went on Miami.”

Even though Miami held a 34-0 halftime lead, the final outcome wasn’t a total loss for the books. Miami’s conservative attitude allowed the final score to fall under the posted total (55½) and allowed the Huskers to cover what had climbed to a seven-point second-half spread for the Canes.

“The hit the books took had a lot to do with the games leading up to Miami-Nebraska,” Avello said. “LSU-Illinois, Florida-Maryland, Tennessee-Michigan and even South Carolina-Ohio State all had the same theme. The speed of the South killed the Midwest.”

Avello also suggested that the “unsophisticated money” overwhelmed the sophisticated.

“If you liked the favorite, which many did, betting late was great,” he said. “I would have loved 7½, but many times the sophisticated money is bet early. That wound up costing the wiseguys and us in this case.”

As for the bowls in general, there were the usual surprises. This time they involved Oregon, Michigan, Michigan State and Oklahoma.

“I was surprised at how big Oregon won (against Colorado),” Avello said. “The Michigan score (vs. Tennessee) was unexpected. They usually play tough in bowls.

“I couldn’t believe that Oklahoma would only score 10 points against Arkansas,” he continued. “The Michigan State game with Fresno had quite a bit of money move on the Spartans. So much that the game dropped from 6 down to 4.”

The books did well early, with the underdogs covering six of the first seven bowl contests. The favorites then started turning the tide.

“The South Carolina-Ohio State matchup may have been the wildest in terms of line,” Avello said. “South Carolina opened —2½, but by kickoff it was Ohio State —1.”

Avello assessed the volume of betting among books across the city as average, according to his contacts.

“Normally the limits on these games are $25,000, but with so many meaningless contests we cut it down to $10,000,” he said. “Thank goodness the playoffs are here. They’re always exciting.”

NOTE: The four-game BCS series, culminated by the Rose Bowl, saw the TV audience drop 22 percent from last year to an all-time viewing low . . . GamingToday hit its last eight picks.