As always, it’s a Battle to the very end

Throughout the NFL season, you’ve been reading feature stories about the contestants in Gaming Today’s Bookies Battle contest.

On the surface, it sounds simple — pick every NFL game against the point spread. Whoever has the best record after 17 weeks wins $1,000.

But it’s not as simple as it looks. Let me explain.

The participants have to put their picks in by 3 p.m. Tuesday when we go to press. That’s five days before the majority of the games are played. A lot can happen between Tuesday and Sunday: injuries, suspensions, weather, lineup changes, all sorts of variables.

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And the biggest variable of all? The line on the game moving.

You can wait until Sunday morning and make your move. The contestants don’t have that luxury. They get a fixed number, they make their selections and that’s it. They live and die with the picks.

Think it’s easy? Try it yourself for a week and see how you fare.

In the two years I’ve been involved in our Bookies Battle, I’ve found the contestants are pleasant, dedicated people who love the industry they work in and the customers they deal with.

And let’s be honest, when it comes to sidling up to the window to make your bets, some of you are no day at the beach. You may be angry or frustrated when you conduct your business and for those taking your action, they’re in a stressful environment, especially as kickoff approaches on Sunday morning and the lines in the sportsbook are long.

Those of you who are smart have ditched the lines in the sportsbook long ago. You got an app for your phone, you opened your account with whichever provider you chose and within seconds, you’re in action. No humans to deal with. No getting antsy with the line not moving as quick as you’d like. No worries about the writer screwing up your bet.

But getting back to our contestants. They come from all walks of life. Men and women. White, African-American, Latino. They live and work in Nevada, in New Jersey, in Pennsylvania and Indiana, in Mississippi and Iowa. Some are married with kids. Some are single. But they share a common bond. They all enjoy working in a fascinating industry that is growing and opening vistas to millions of Americans who have never known what it’s like to bet on a football or a basketball game legally.

These are people of integrity who have a stake in making sure the outcome of whatever you bet on is legitimate and on the up and up. The sports betting industry’s bane of existence is predicated on the games being contested fairly.

Now I can’t speak to the lousy officiating or other factors that weigh into whether a team covers. I mean, could I have predicted that Dwayne Haskins was going to fumble on the last play of the game Sunday and the Eagles were going to cover against the Redskins? Who knew the Raiders were going to check out before the second half began and allow the Jaguars to end their run in Oakland with a loss in a game they were comfortably ahead in?

But things happen in sports and that’s why the range of emotions in every sportsbook from the Las Vegas Strip to Rhode Island has people cheering and groaning on virtually every snap every Sunday. And monitoring it all are the folks who you see on pages 8 and 9 in Gaming Today week after week after week, offering their opinions.

Perhaps you have been following along with some of the leaders and have shown a profit through 15 weeks of the NFL season. Maybe some of you cynics have gone the other way and have also managed to be in the black, depending on who you’ve been betting against.

And while putting up your hard-earned cash is no joking matter, the main reason Bookies Battle exists is to have fun. Our contestants all want to do well. After all, this is a pride thing as well as a competition for the first prize of a thousand clams. And if you’ve read the weekly features, you know that there are colleagues from neighboring casinos who are waging their own personal competition with a friendly wager riding on the outcome.

So as we wind down another Bookies Battle, bear in mind this is a two-way street. It is publicity for the sportsbooks. It is also a chance for you to get the opinions of 90-plus experts in the sports betting industry who set the lines every week, monitor the movement and sweat out the outcomes just like you do.

Consider it a public service on our part. And I want to personally thank Amelia Stets, our assistant production manager who is responsible for chasing down and gathering the picks every week, putting them in the right order and making the display of those picks look so good on our pages. And thanks as well to our friends at the South Point for sponsoring the Bookies Battle.

Bookies Battle is a big part of GT’s football coverage and it will only get bigger. To the sportsbooks that did not participate this year and to those books that will open in the coming months across the country, consider this an open invitation to take part, get some free exposure for your establishment and give some of your hard-working employees a chance to make some added money. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

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