The Chicago Cubs might become a bear of a problem for Las Vegas sports books.
The Cubs, which clinched their Divisional series with Atlanta on Sunday, advance to the National League Championship Series (NLCS) with Florida this week. If they win, they’ll be in the World Series for the first time since 1908.
Perennial losers for the past 95 years, the Cubs are poised to gain revenge on Nevada bookmakers, who have taken and cashed losing bets from hapless Cub fans year after year.
This year could be different.
"I can tell you that the Cubs winning the World Series would be a really bad result for the sports books," said Tony Sinisi, senior oddsmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which sets betting odds for most of Nevada’s sports betting industry. "Now, we’re at the point where there’s so much money bet on the Cubs that they have become a huge liability to the sports books."
Bets on the Cubs have been building all season long. They opened at anywhere from 30-1 to 50-1 to win the World Series, but had dropped to 4-1 at the end of the regular season. Heading into the NLCS with Florida, the Cubs were 5-2 to win the Series.
"Most of the money bet on the Series has been on the Cubs, but we don’t stand to lose much," says Micah Roberts, sports director at Station Casinos.
At the Rampart/Cannery, heavy betting on the Cubs is "nothing new," so winning the World Series wouldn’t be catastrophic, according to sports book manager Eric St. Clair.
"It seems like every year, people bet the Cubs — I guess you can say, ”˜hope springs eternal,’" St. Clair said. "Because there is this constant betting interest, we would be in good shape, should the Cubs win the World Series."
The prospect of the Cubs being in the World Series could actually generate lots more betting interest, and thus offset any losses that might be incurred from future bets.
"The Cubs, as well as the Red Sox (which are fighting for World Series birth), are heavily backed by the public every year," said Chuck Esposito, race and sports director at Caesars Palace. "If the Cubs and/or the Red Sox make it to the World Series, I think you’d see a lot of new bettors, along with a lot of new TV viewers who would watch the games.
"If you can bring in large new segment of bettors, I think all of us in the industry would benefit," Esposito said.