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NFL: Books still winning but holiday lull cuts into handle

Dec 29, 2009 5:07 PM

What a week it has been for the Las Vegas Sports Books, and for casino executives, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Between the string of big wins for the house in the college football bowls and a nice ratio of favorites and dogs covering on NFL Sunday, the books were able to close out the final quarter and calendar year with an unexpected cherry on top of the budget.

The one variable in the casino that always has the financial department guessing is the Sports Book. Table games and slots can be forecasted almost to the dollar based on expected drop and win because the percentages always hold true; however, the Sports Book win is always a mystery.

The sharpest prognosticators can’t tell who is going to cover week to week and that makes the finance guys in each casino go crazy because they don’t have a grasp on it like the other departments. When the president of the company asks, "How are we going to close out the year," the bean-counter always gives concrete information followed by, "if we have a good week in the Book."

Well, last week was a great week that made everyone happy. Between the bowl games seeing the favorites go 3-6-1 to start and Sunday’s pro football seeing the perfect mix of favorites going 6-6-2, the books did extremely well.

"It was one of the better days of the year," said Las Vegas Hilton Superbook Executive Director Jay Kornegay. "Anytime you can have a 14-point dog win outright with several other dogs covering, it’s going to be a good day. Then when you put in everyone’s favorite, the Colts, losing outright, it helped make the day for us."

The 14-point dog that won outright was the Tampa Buccaneers who beat the Saints 20-17 giving New Orleans their second straight loss at home after winning their first 13 games of the season. The undefeated team coming into Sunday was the Colts who lost to the Jets 29-15. Despite the game being close in the third quarter, Colts coach Jim Caldwell took out all his stars and watched the second stringers lose their first game of the season.

"The public ratio in favor of the Colts was unbelievable," said Palms Director of Race and Sports Fred Crespi. " It was like 5 to 2 in favor of the Colts in ticket counts, however, we had a lot of sharp money throughout the week that kept pounding the Jets which negated what would have been a one-sided win for us on the game."

The win for the books could have been much better had it been another week in the season without the holidays.

"The last two Sundays have really been good for us, but Christmas and the spending habits of our regular guests hurt the possibilities because we didn‘t have as much action like we did the first 14 weeks," said Kornegay.

In the bowl games, bettors have been baffled. Just when you think you’ve got a trend going, the law of averages circles around. The Pac-10 started the Bowl season 0-2 as favorites, so when USC came to bat in the third outing, coupled with the fact the bowl dogs were 1-6 up to that point, the public had beliefs that Boston College would get there as 7-point dogs.

Las Vegas is usually a very pro-USC town, but after seeing them get thumped a few times in conference play and then watching the other Pac-10 bowl teams go down, the action was split on the game. Even the Sharps bet B.C. down from an opener of nine to seven.

The Public loves to play favorites. The scene couldn’t be set up better for the books right now because of all the underdogs winning. The two biggest favorites of the Bowl season have already gone down with Fresno State and Nevada losing outright to Mountain West teams as 12.5-point favorites.

Coming up this week the books hope to close out the year strong with a full slate of games every day through New Year’s. Most of the games are close spreads and evenly matched on paper which is good news for the books because there will be so many varied opinions which will keep the parlay win percentage up high and ensure a winning day regardless of the results.

Most of NFL Week 17’s games will be circled, or take limited action, with the exception of the few games that mean something. It’s likely that the 1 p.m. (PT) Denver-Kansas City and Baltimore-Oakland game will be taken off the board while the Bengals play the Jets and then re-opened once the result is certain in that game.

It will be interesting to see how the Bengals approach this game. They won’t want to get Carson Palmer hurt against that nasty No. 1 ranked Jets defense, but they also have a good enough defense to hold the Jets to modest gains despite the Jets fighting for their playoff lives.

It’s funny how things circle around. Had Brandon Stokely not made the miraculous game winning touchdown at Cincinnati in week 1, Denver wouldn’t even be in this position. But here they are in the final week of the season needing help from the Bengals to make the playoffs.

Because of the variables in numbers involving some of these teams, make sure you make your wagers as close as possible to kickoff because the spread will rise or fall drastically based on implications from other games.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Micah Roberts

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