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Bettors cash in

May 4, 2004 7:38 AM

Bettors delivered a one-two punch to the city’s sports books in April as the NBA’s playoff season and Major League Baseball got under way with a barrage of games that the players had no trouble putting in their win columns.

The bettors went heavy for home favorites in the first round of the NBA playoffs and the teams they backed had no trouble winning and covering. "It’s favorites and over all the time," said Kitt Langvad, sports book director at Arizona Charlie’s West. "We’re hanging in there."

She added that her sports book has at least been doing better in basketball than it has in baseball, in which the other sports books in her company’s casinos (Stratosphere and Arizona Charlie’s East) are "struggling."

One of her colleagues, Patrick Rethore of Arizona Charlie’s East, said that while the volume of betting action was "pretty much the same as the regular season," the first week of the NBA playoffs was "killed" by the favorites. "When the favorites come in, (the books can) forget about it," he said.

Casey Lewless at Circus Circus repeated the now-familiar refrain that it’s been "the same old story — favorites and over." He estimated two-thirds of the action has been on the favorites. He said teams on the verge of closing out a series draw even more backing.

Lewless said the volume of betting action has been about the same as it has been in the past, and that the Lakers get far more attention from bettors than any other team. He estimated about $30,000 was bet at Circus Circus on the NBA playoffs by the middle of last week and $23,000 of that total was bet on the Lakers.

Tony Neville of the New Frontier sports book said bettors "are having a great playoff" while hitting their bets at a 66 percent clip in the first round.

In baseball, Neville said "players are winning big. It reminds me of last August." He theorized months that start with the letter "A" are bad months for the sports books.

At Mandalay Bay, Scott Reynolds, the sports book’s day supervisor, said that most of the NBA betting action has been "predominately" on the favorites and the over. However, baseball bettors are "playing the dogs and they’re having a good month." He pointed out a lot of bettors have been going with the under in Expos games.

Mike Davis of the Luxor said essentially the same thing about baseball betting. "The underdogs won a lot in the early going but it will even out over time." He added a lot of bettors are playing the "run" lines, in which a team either gives or receives 1.5 runs, similar to points in football.

Larry Richards of the Las Vegas Club, agreed that baseball bettors appear to have an early advantage. "They’re taking the dogs and the dogs are winning," he said. "In baseball, this might be the worst month in history (for sports books)."

Chris Andrews at the Golden Nugget said his sport book has done "a lot of business on home teams," but in terms of NBA futures bets, the action has been spread out and "definitely not heavily" on the Lakers. "There’s nobody we’re desperate to beat," he said.

In baseball, Andrews said his sports book has taken "a lot of action on dogs and they’ve been winning."

Kelly Downey at Green Valley Ranch said players have been betting the favorites and over with reckless abandon. "It’s almost like they don’t know who’s playing. They just walk up to the window and say give me the favorite."

At Caesars Palace, race and sports director Chuck Esposito said the Lakers and Spurs would have a "tremendous" series. He said his sports book has seen "a lot of favorite play" in the playoffs and with the Lakers involved, his book will be filled with fans from California. Whenever the Lakers play, "It’s standing room only, especially on the weekends," he said.

Kelly Armstrong at Boulder Station reports some betting interest in the Nuggets and Grizzlies before those teams were eliminated in the first round. In baseball, he said bettors "started out hot on the underdogs like Detroit and the Reds," but now the favorites are winning and the pendulum is swinging the other way.

Unlike most sports books in town, the Imperial Palace "is doing very well on baseball," according to Ed Salmons, who added that the sports book is "holding over 5 percent (when) 3 percent is good." Typically, baseball holds the least amount from bettors of all the major sports.

Salmon added that the NBA playoffs "had too many teams that had no chance" and the result has been "boring basketball" that has been at times has been "unwatchable."

But he expects all that to change in the second round with marquee match-ups between the Lakers and Spurs, and the Detroit Pistons battling the Pacers.