If there was ever any doubt what America’s current favorite sport is, just look back to last Tuesday night at the national stir caused by the NFL releasing their 2012 schedule on live television.
We’re only in April and news of a mere schedule – for games five months away – was the hot topic while actual live games were going on in the NBA, MLB, and NHL playoffs.
To go with the flow and satisfy everyone’s thirst for football, a few Las Vegas sports books wasted little time posting odds for the entire Week 1 schedule. The LVH Super Book and Lucky’s opened numbers on Wednesday followed by Cantor Gaming books on Thursday.
"It’s a completely different culture now from just 5 or 10 years ago," said Lucky’s sports book director Jimmy Vaccaro, one of the most influential bookmakers in Las Vegas history. "We used to always be behind in my earlier years and bettors were fortunate if they even got Super Bowl futures by July, let alone a full week of games with spreads."
A lot has changed over the last few years. Not only has football become more popular than ever, but there has also been a shift in the Las Vegas sports book scene where they have been more competitive with a lot of it geared toward gaining exposure. By doing so, their names get plastered on stories all over television, radio and print media.
"It’s basically free advertising for us," said Vaccaro. "Between the Internet, competition out there and publicity, we are kind of forced to be aggressive with the things people want to see and talk about, and those things every year in our world right now are pro and college football; people can’t get enough of it any time of the year."
The free advertising aspect is interesting. It’s always been there, but just not on the same level as it is today with the social media world, sports betting blogs and hundreds of other outlets looking to publish any story that will create interest, and anything associated with football creates a buzz.
"Because of that public interest in the pro football numbers, we garner lots of attention, not just locally, but nationally. You’re calling me because you want to write something about it, (LVRJ’s Matt) Youmans called me last night. I got a call today from a reporter in Tampa who heard about our odds through Twitter because Darren Rovell (CNBC’s SportsBiz) tweeted something about it," Vaccaro said.
It’s almost as if the actual spreads of each individual game becomes secondary to the actual comfort we get from just knowing a few sports books have odds available if we want to wager on them.
Lucky’s got more of a splash when opening up their games from a local and national buzz level than actual betting at their windows, but a few of the games did find some immediate action thanks to the last two months of hype surrounding a certain player.
"The spreads create some interest and we’ve already got a few small plays on, guess who, Peyton Manning and the Broncos laying -2 against the Steelers." Vaccaro said. "Some of the larger money we’ll see will be from bettors just trying to create a middle for themselves with some of the other early numbers out there."
There are some opportunities out there for middles between Lucky’s, LVH and Cantor Gaming Books. The biggest differential was the Saints opening up as 11-point home favorites against the Redskins at LVH and opening -9 at Lucky’s.
The variance in each sports book’s number likely lies within their perception of how the Saints approach this game with a decimated coaching staff and how well Robert Griffin III performs as a starting quarterback in his first game.
LVH opened the Packers as 6-point home favorites over the 49ers while Lucky’s made them -5. Figure 99% of the people will not bet these games right now, but rather debate which number is correct among themselves, and in doing so, have the name of each sports book attached as the source of the line, which is great for business, especially when it’s free.
"It shows how big football is in this country." Vaccaro said. "We could put an early NHL line for the upcoming season and no one would care, but everyone seems to want football so we want to give it to them as early as possible."
The next stage to satisfy the public’s football craving is all 17 weeks of games offered by Mike Colbert at Cantor Gaming books, the LVH pro football games of the year and the Golden Nugget’s college football games of the year, which are slated to be released in May.