Baseball off base?

Apr 16, 2002 8:57 AM
Baseball may be our national pastime, but so far in Las Vegas sports books, it’s failed to reach the present tense. Most sports directors report just a trickle of betting action, although some local casinos, such as Palace Station and the Gold Coast, have received “moderate” betting interest. “For the general public, they would rather watch baseball than bet on it,” said Jay Kornegay, race and sports director at the Imperial Palace. “The problem is, it’s harder to understand with the money lines, total lines and run lines, plus you have to follow the pitchers, the lineup, the batting order. So the unfamiliarity factor, at this point, will probably keep some players away.” Kornegay added that offshore bookmakers have diverted some betting action, most of which would probably be from sophisticated bettors. Another bookmaker speculated that baseball just doesn’t have the “sex appeal” of the other, fast-paced sports, and that the daily grind of games makes it “hard to get excited” about betting. While that may be the case, professional sports bettors know that baseball is their best hope of winning, based on the fact that sports books win the least amount of money on baseball bets, compared to the other major sports. “Our hold (win) percentage is less than 1 percent on baseball, and after an entire season we’re lucky to break even,” said the sports director of a Strip casino. He added that the “hold” or win percentage on football is usually between 5 percent and 10 percent, slightly less on basketball, but a whopping 35 percent to 40 percent on parlay cards. While the action has so far been sluggish for baseball, some casinos around town are offering promotions to pique players’ interest. The newly-opened Wildfire Casino on Rancho Road, for instance, has begun offering reduced vigorish and daily parlay cards. On Tuesday, the Wildfire offers baseball bets with a 5-cent line for two hours (it’s normally a 10-cent line), and on Thursday (all day) the sports book features a 10-cent money line on totals. Most books use a 20-cent line on the over-under play. “We believe what we’re doing in the short term will bring people in and create a buzz,” said Trick Sixty, assistant sports book manager. Sixty added that Wildfire also recently introduced a daily parlay card, which includes all sports but will isolate on baseball when the NBA and NHL seasons conclude. The daily parlay card offers up to 10 betting interests, with a nine-out-of-ten consolation payoff of 20-1. “We need to attract the local business and bettors,” Sixty said. “We’re new on the block and baseball is a slow time in the business. Out here, we are not afraid to shake things up and do something to help bettors.” Another casino that has attracted some interest in baseball is the Gold Coast and its sister properties, the Suncoast, Barbary Coast and The Orleans. Those sports books offer dime lines on all baseball bets. Most sports books offer a progressive betting line that might start out at 10 cents, such as —120 and +110, but escalate to a larger spread: —220 and +185. Those large lines and other “player unfriendly” features have some bettors unhappy with the baseball betting scene in Las Vegas. “While it’s possible to bet some dime lines around town, the parlay card situation is a joke,” said one sports bettor who gambles in locals casinos. “I tried to play a daily parlay card, but it had some baseball teams laying one, two and three runs. “To lay those kinds of runs in baseball and only get even money is ludicrous,” he continued. “Throw in the fact that the card is ”˜ties lose’ and you have a completely impossible situation. No wonder no one is betting baseball.”