Baseball bloodbath for books

Sep 14, 2004 7:20 AM

Perhaps more this season than any other, baseball has become the sport for success among astute bettors.

"The trends aren’t good for us," said Lou D’Amico, who is starting his second week as sports book manager at the Plaza-Las Vegas Club. "Baseball has been a little rough, but all we can do is ride the streak out."

A little rough? One sports book director said August was the "worst month ever" for baseball, while others around town echoed similar complaints.

The method for winning is as basic as a lead pipe — bet heavily on the favorites.

"You can’t fault the customers for playing the favorites," said D’Amico, who grew up loving the old Brooklyn Dodgers and later the New York Mets at their worst (1962) and best (1969). "All the bets were on favorites, except Friday when people were taking the red hot Marlins in a doubleheader with the Cubs."

The situation was similar over at the Golden Nugget, where the busy downtown casino was fighting an uphill battle just to stay close to even against the bettors.

"People are betting the Cardinals every day and willing to lay the $3.00 and $3.40 prices," said Chris Andrews, the Nugget’s race and sports manager. "St. Louis is winning by an average of three runs a game and there seems to be no way to stop them."

Other sports book directors say bettors have focused on several teams that, for right now, can’t be beat: Atlanta, Houston, St. Louis, Oakland and Los Angeles.

Besides piling on the favorites, bettors have been parlaying teams such as the above, often times catching three and four winners at a time.

While bookies may love the parity that exists in the NFL, the lack of it in baseball has become a concern.

"We take enough bets to be concerned," Andrews said. "Our losses are being felt, but we’re not about to change our policy as far as the dime line. The simple fact is we’re not having a good year and not much can be done about it."

Unless, of course, the Arizona Diamondbacks start winning.

"There are some very bad teams this year and Arizona certainly is costing us a lot of money," he said. "You have such a disparity with Arizona, Seattle and recently the Mets as compared to the Yankees, Boston, Houston, St. Louis and all the division leaders."

Andrews said baseball wagering has been up at the Nugget this year, which is no great surprise.

"I can’t say how baseball is doing industry-wide, but it has been rough for us," Andrews said. "You just hope to catch the occasional dog. But right now, betting favorites is profitable for customers and they will continue to take advantage until the regular season ends in October."

Bettors usually focus on starting pitcher match-ups, but late in the year motivation has a lot to do with how teams perform. For instance, St. Louis, Houston, Florida, Los Angeles, Oakland and Boston were all on long win streaks at the same time, which produced a number of easy decisions.

GamingToday handicappers were a record 150 games over .500 for the year as of Sunday.

"There is nothing the books can do but accept the losses," D’Amico said. "We’re just happy to see bettors coming to the Plaza and Las Vegas Club. We like the action."