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NFL’s back!

Sep 14, 2004 7:06 AM

Opening weekend in the NFL drew huge crowds and tight lips from Las Vegas bookmakers.

"For some games we were smiling, others not," said Chuck Esposito, race and sports manager at Caesars Palace. "The volume was tremendous and we drew standing-room-only crowds. People were camped out early to get seats."

That seemed to be the general opinion around the Las Vegas Strip and beyond as pro football again lived up to betting expectations.

"The crowds were great and we had plenty of action," said Lamar Mitchell, race and sports manager at the MGM Grand. "We had people sitting on the floor near our sports bar watching on the giant screens. It was a great atmosphere. We had a lot of Raiders fans so you can imagine how the noise echoed around here."

The Raider-Steeler game was also the most watched game at Suncoast, with the majority of bettors pulling for the Raiders. The Steelers won but failed to cover the 4-point spread.

"Football went off without a hitch," said Mike Markham, sports supervisor at Suncoast. "We lost money on the Vikings, but we did all right on the other games. Raiders fans were happy with the cover, even though Pittsburgh won. They took the money anyway."

Eric St. Claire, race and sports manager at Rampart, said the sports book won on some games, lost on a few others and just about broke even.

"I’d say it was a break even situation for all of us," St. Claire said. "At Rampart, we had a huge move on the Vikings and Broncos games and we did well on Jacksonville and Baltimore. Thank goodness for the Ravens, otherwise there would have been a lot of belly-aching around here."

The Ravens were a popular pick over the Cleveland Browns, partly because Baltimore demolished the Browns in two games last year by a combined 68-3.

St. Claire noted that Rampart took a chance with the Philadelphia-NY Giants game, opening with the Eagles as a 10-point favorite in an effort to trigger some action on the defending NFC East champions.

"We did good on the Giants with that higher number," he said. "I thought the customers would play the Eagles so we wanted to encourage some New York money. It would have been nice to get that early cushion, but not as much money came in as we thought. Still, it was a nice win for us."

College football on Saturday, while drawing less volume than NFL bettors, was still highly watched and wagered, according to St. Claire.

"There was good two-way action," he said. "The Texas-Arkansas game was heavily played (because of TV coverage). College was a good day for us as well."

Big winners for the house include the UCLA-Illinois game, in which Illinois was bet from a 6 ½ point underdog to 1 ½ points (UCLA won 35-17); and the Penn State-Boston College game, which saw Penn State bet from a 2-point underdog to a 3-point favorite, only to lose convincingly, 21-7.

In addition to brisk betting action, sports books reported heavy play on parlay cards and contests.

Some of the top casinos for contest action was Station, Coast and the Palms.