Vegas sports books have Super Bowl fever

Jan 21, 2014 3:01 AM

From the moment Seattle was posted as the winner in Sunday’s NFC Championship game, it was easily apparent everyone hanging out in a Las Vegas sports book had Super Bowl fever.

The masses started lining up in orderly fashion to get a piece of the first number offered before it was even posted. The LVH Super Book was the first shop in Vegas to offer a number, posting the Seahawks -2, then Cantor followed with Seattle -1. William Hill opened pick ’em, the South Point and MGM books had Seattle -1½, and the one maverick out there, surprisingly, was Station Casinos, which came with Denver -1.

Within a half-hour, almost every bettor in unison around the city told the sports books the opening number was off, and they showed the books the money, which forced them to rapidly adjust their numbers and make Denver the favorite.

When the dust had settled Sunday night, it was Station and Coast Resorts at the highest numbers, closing with Denver -2½. There was no lower number than Denver -1. In an instant, the betting public was able to move the number in drastic fashion in a game that will see more action than any game booked all year.

“As soon as we posted it (Seattle -1½), we immediately got Denver action, both large and small,” said South Point sports book director Bert Osborne who moved Denver to the favorite within 18 minutes of the game being on the board, and eventually to a 2½-point favorite.

“I can’t remember the last time we saw such a surge of action after posting a Super Bowl number,” said Osborne, a 25-year veteran oddsmaker for Michael Gaughan’s properties.

Why such a fascination with the Broncos? The Seahawks just beat everyone’s favorite team – the 49ers – that has been covering nearly every week. You would think there would be a little more respect given to Seattle, especially with the Super Bowl possibly being played at 20 degrees with possible snow. Wouldn’t Seattle’s top rated defense have somewhat of an edge in a chilly situation? That’s what LVH Super Book VP Jay Kornegay was thinking.

“We thought Seattle should have been -2 just because we think they’re better prepared than Denver to play in the possible weather conditions at the Meadowlands,” said Kornegay.

The Broncos have the top scoring offense in football while Seattle’s defense allows the least. The last time we had the best facing each other in a Super Bowl was in 1991 when the Giants beat the high flying Bills. It’s happened four times in the Super Bowl era with the top defenses holding a 3-1 edge. The only loss for the defense was when Denver was beaten badly by the 1989 49ers, one of the greatest teams of all-time.

On the other side, you couldn’t be faulted for increasing the Broncos rating a point after so soundly beating the Patriots. The 26-16 score doesn’t indicate a route, but it really was a thorough beat down with Peyton Manning surgically dissecting a Bill Belichick defense like rarely seen before. It was a clinic. But the weather was also good in Denver on Sunday. Traditionally, Manning has been at his worst when temperatures dip below 32 degrees.

Part of what I think the early action on Denver shows is that Manning’s achievements coming back from a neck injury that nearly ended his career have made him the story to root for. Fans of 30 other teams don’t have a team to cheer and Manning is such a likeable guy, if looking for someone to support, he’s an easy choice.

A fan on the fence debating who to bet on may have been swayed by default because of the smallest reasons, like maybe the boisterous Richard Sherman interview on Fox after the game. “I hope that guy loses,” one might say.

This is the one game a year where everyone is involved in some way. The Super Bowl is a national festival, and whether you follow football or not, chances are you’ll be gravitating to one of the teams for some reason.

For the church lady, she’s betting $10 on the Broncos because Manning’s a fine young man. For the casual bettor investing $100, he’s a little more in depth and bets Denver because he likes what he’s seen out of the running game and better defensive play lately.

For the $20,000 sharp bettor, he’s waiting for +3 on the Seahawks to show up, but may have to wait a long time, so he holds onto his money until one angle presents itself as the best opportunity for value on Seattle.

Record Write?

Everyone has reason to celebrate this unofficial national holiday and it is part of the reason we could see close to $100 million wagered in Nevada this year, which would break the record of $98.9 million set last year.

The South Point’s Jimmy Vaccaro believes we’ll see a record, but Kornegay is a little more reserved with projections saying “the 49ers finally back in the Super Bowl was a big draw last year, especially up north. I’ll say we’ll get to the $90’s, but I’m not sure about $100 million.”

Like Vaccaro, I’m optimistic just because of the way business is booming. Last year’s Super Bowl handle was at the tail end of a season where business showed huge gains. This season those gains have been strong again, leading me to believe it’s not so much about the teams involved, but more about how much money people have in their pocket.

Before last season, the previous record was in 2006 ($94.5M) when Pittsburgh and Seattle squared off, both with moderate fan bases. That was at the end of the 2005 year when business was never better in Las Vegas casinos.

False early move?

It could be between lower early limits and trying to adjust with the market that many books went with the flow to get to the proper number quick. But the fevered pace at which real money came in on Denver is an early indication the masses will be supporting the Broncos.

Sharp money will definitely grab +3 on Seattle, but in this game where close to $100 million will be wagered, sharp money means less to a book than any event they’ll book all year.

Best for book?

Favorite wins, but doesn’t cover and the total stays UNDER. It doesn’t matter who it is, that’s traditionally been what the books root for the most in every Super Bowl. The best all-time Super Bowl win came in 2005 when the Patriots, favored by 7, beat the Eagles, 24-21, which narrowly kept the total UNDER 46½. Nevada books raked in $15.4 million in win on that one, holding 17 percent collectively.

Books win

Nevada sports books got exactly what they needed to show a win for the house on Championship Sunday with Broncos (-5) winning 26-16 over the Patriots and Seahawks (-3½) downing the 49ers, 23-17, both covering the numbers as favorites. However, there was a huge gash taken out of the profits when both sides covered on the teasers making everyone who took an additional six points to any side a winner.

It was the seventh time an all-way side teaser has occurred in the 10 playoff games over the past three weeks. The books aren’t complaining though, because they were heavy on both underdogs, an unusual circumstance for a title game from public money, which generally sides with the favorites.

On this particular weekend, bettors had the four best teams to choose from and getting +5 with Tom Brady and +3½ with the 49ers, who had won eight straight coming in, was too much to pass on. There were several books needing one favorite or the other with greater urgency, but all were in the same boat rooting for Denver and Seattle to cover.

“It wasn’t as big a win for us as you might think,” cautioned Kornegay. “We got the sides we needed to come in with both favorites, but the teasers hurt, maybe not as bad as it would have been if we had a couple of seven or eight point favorites. And then the total of the Seattle game landing 40 wasn’t good. We had a big house player who had played the total OVER 39½ and between parlays OVER and a bunch of other parlays pushing at 40, that took away a lot of the win.”

The Seahawks total closed 41 at most Las Vegas books while the Broncos and Patriots didn’t come close to eclipsing a total that reached as high as 57½ after opening 55. That’s two games in a row now where Peyton Manning executed a game plan with precision while running the play clock down to one second, seemingly on every play.

It was Denver’s fifth straight UNDER after being the most feverishly bet OVER team in the NFL all season. Is Denver readying itself for cold weather football with a clock running scheme?

LVH props out Thursday

The Super Bowl is two weeks away, but the most stressful time for bookmakers everywhere during the wait time will occur over the next four days when everyone gathers their hundreds of Super Bowl props. It may seem like a simple process of just posting numbers, but it’s a huge ordeal involving the entire staff. First off, the numbers have to be good and well researched so the sharps don’t carry them out.

“We’ve already started the process and we’ll get to our final numbers on Tuesday and Wednesday night,” said Kornegay, “and we’ll spend about eight hours on each of those nights until we get the right number, and then we’ll open them up on Thursday.”

Kornegay and his crew, consisting of Ed Salmons, Jeff Sherman and Chris Bennett, have raised the props game to an entirely new level in Las Vegas to the point where many of the standard props every book uses now were originated by the LVH crew, which began 20 years ago when they were at the Imperial Palace together.

When they’re finished, they’ll have over 330 different props related to just about any stat that comes out of the game, and also tie in those stats with other sports such as soccer, basketball, hockey and NASCAR.

Don’t expect one their famed prop booklets out until Friday because organizing that sheet and ensuring all 330 props have the proper verbiage, bet numbers and opening lines correct is another 16-hour process of triple checking.

“Once we get all of that stuff out of the way,” said Kornegay, “booking the game and the props is the easy part.”

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].

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