Book it: There’s green available in golf bets

Jan 14, 2003 7:35 AM

The PGA Tour has resumed. I said the PGA Tour has started. I said”¦

"Golf betting is not very large," said Eric St. Clair, race and sports manager at the Rampart. "Our house is at a bit of a disadvantage in regard to the middle and lower rung golfers so we don’t usually put up odds until the major events."

Such candor, particularly from upper management, is to be admired. And, from St. Clair’s view (about a 8-iron away from the TPC courses), it’s easy to understand why posting golf odds is risky.

"Our liability is so large on a golfer 30-1," St. Clair said. "It’s embarrassing both for us and the bettors when you place a $100 limit on a bet. The only thing worse is telling my boss I lost $100,000."

Clearly everyone in the gaming business knows about Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and the dozen or so elite players in the game. It’s the second and third tier of golfers that Las Vegas bookmakers on and off the Strip are worried about.

"Tiger is always a popular wager, but people bet on golf every week no matter who is in the field," St. Clair said. "The fact is we don’t get a lot of action on golf and the people behind the counter don’t know much about setting odds for the tournaments. We have to rely on odds sent out, and it’s hard to tolerate losing to those lines."

Those lines, for the most part, are created and released by Jason Been, the astute oddsmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants. The odds and individual matchups that appeared in GamingToday for last week’s opening event at Kapalua, Hawaii were provided by LVSC.

"PGA golf is something you have to follow through the course of a season," Been said. "Charles Howell III is a great young talent, but it may take several years to believe in him. The makeup of the Tour is changing. It’s out with old, in with the new."

Been focuses on two major factors in making his weekly odds and matchups for tournaments. The formula creates an equality Been firmly believes works.

"The most important factor I consider is how players have done in their last five events," he said. "Guys go through peaks and valleys. The second consideration is a golfer’s history on a particular course. We try to match players accordingly."

Whether or not an event includes Tiger really makes no significant difference in the way LVSC sets futures odds.

"Guys normally 50-1 with Tiger playing may be 40-1 without him," Been said. "Matchups might be a bit harder. The fields usually aren’t as good from top to bottom. The star quality is hurt."

Naturally an event without Tiger creates virtually no interest around Vegas books. Again, it kicks in the lack of familiarity with the overall product.

"I can see the situation improving for golf wagering," St. Clair said. "All it would take is having someone on your property who understands golf. The fact is that golf as a wagering sport hasn’t caught on like other sports. It’s not a common man’s game. Golf is too expensive for most people to play."

Still the lack of betting interest in golf is surprising, considering that Las Vegas is an ideal place to play golf. Not to mention that the majority of golfers love to gamble.

"No doubt about that, but there is no clamor about making more golf events available to them on our oddsboard," St. Clair said. "I know that the Masters will do well for us, but until then we probably won’t be dealing too much in golf. It’s a pro football world right now."