USFantasy offering fantasy sports betting in Nevada
November 22, 2016 3:01 AM
by Dave Dye
Sports bettors around here have their set routines. For most, it’s an obsession with parlay cards during football season.
They mark in their top NFL and college teams week after week, hoping to cash a big ticket while, at the very least, having a rooting interest on numerous games.
Robert Walker doesn’t necessarily want those people to change their betting habits, just expand them, and he has a suggestion about how to do it.
Walker, who used to be the sportsbook director at the Mirage and the old Stardust, recently returned to Las Vegas and is the new director of strategic planning for USFantasy Sports.
USF began offering fantasy-type wagering in a pari-mutuel system during the second week of the NFL season. It debuted at the Caesars properties and has since grown to include Station, Boyd, CG Technology and MGM, among others.
“I think we’ve got to the fantasy players,” Walker said. “The difficulty right now is getting to the sportsbook players. We were never a part of their routine, but once they play, it will become part of their routine.”
USFantasy Sports has already spread to Colorado with agreements in place at 14 off-track betting sites while negotiations are ongoing with other states, too.
“We are very encouraged,” said John Salerno, the director of operations and son of Vic Salerno, president of USF. “There’s been a lot of states that are very interested in what we’re doing.”
For now, one major company that hasn’t gotten involved with USF is William Hill, which has 108 betting locations throughout the state.
“They have a lot of their in-house products that they do,” said Salerno, who was director of compliance at William Hill before joining USF a few months ago. “They just said they’re not interested at this time.”
While fantasy contests such as DraftKings and FanDuel involve selecting a team of players, the USF format is much different.
It’s just like betting the horses. Instead of races, there are props. For instance, Prop No. 1 for Sunday’s NFL action was a group of 12 quarterbacks. You could have bet, say, Tom Brady to win, place or show.
There are daily doubles, pick threes, exactas, trifectas and superfectas available. There’s even a chance to win as much as $1 million on a $1 bet for correctly selecting the winner of seven different props.
The scoring systems are quite simple. Only yards and touchdowns count for football while points, assists and rebounds are used in basketball.
As with horse racing’s pari-mutuel system, payouts are determined by the total pool of money that’s bet on that particular prop, minus a 10-12 percent takeout (compared to 18-20 percent, if not more, with horses).
“You get rewarded if you’re not on the favorite side all the time,” Walker said.
The odds change as the money comes in.
Walker uses an example of Manny Pacquiao’s recent fight against Jessie Vargas to show the overlay opportunities available. A wager on Pacquiao winning on a decision paid $38.20 on a $2 bet. That’s because other options – Pacquiao in a knockout in the fourth, fifth or sixth rounds, for instance – were more popular in this case.
“You got 18-1 on a prop that should have been an odds-on favorite,” Walker said. “It’s like getting Secretariat at 18-1.”
While USF is mostly fantasy betting based on individual player statistics, there are exceptions for Nevada bettors, such as the Pacquiao fight, where a sportsbook-like wager could be offered in the pari-mutuel form when casinos aren’t interested in booking certain bets.
Much of the problem currently for USFantasy is that the odds aren’t listed on the main boards in sportsbooks around Las Vegas. There’s just not room for it with all the first-half and second-half bets offered these days.
The best way to track updated USF odds, along with the leaderboards once the games start, is through the company’s website, usfantasy.com.
Football, basketball and hockey are the main fantasy offerings right now, but USF is working on props for mixed martial arts that are based on statistics such as strikes and takedowns, not on who wins or loses a fight.
NASCAR is also likely to be added to the lineup for the Daytona 500. A prop with eight drivers could include exacta, trifecta and superfecta wagers.
Walker is particularly excited for USF’s first baseball season.
“We think it’s going to be monstrous for us,” he said. “Baseball lends itself to fantasy. It’s a stats-driven league and it’s every day.”
This is all just the beginning.
“I think the product you see right now may not necessarily be the exact product two years from now, but it will be very close,” Walker said.
He added, “It’s only going to get bigger and bigger.”