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With the NFL season back on track, bookies & bettors go to work

 

I do not recommend buying picks. A lot of tout services are far more adept at marketing themselves than they are at picking winners.

 

Last month, Las Vegas bookmakers exhaled a collective sigh of relief as they were able to put the upcoming NFL season back on their radar screens. A new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was finally signed by players and owners, meaning the season will begin on schedule. The football season is the books’ primary raison d’être, and the pro teams are the straw that stirs the drink.

According to Gaming Control Board figures, Nevada sports books won close to $75 million from football action, or about half of the total $151 million won by the state’s bet shops in 2010. The board doesn’t break down college vs. NFL profits, but the Sunday games dominate by a substantial margin.

Contingency plans for a bleak fall and winter at the sports books were set aside as the owners’ lockout ended and players headed to training camp, with a full set of preseason games on tap. Bookmakers applied themselves to offering an abundant menu of wagering options. Despite the labor problems, many bettors never believed the season was in doubt, as action on games with early lines and prop bets was strong.

“We have a bigger Super Bowl futures handle now than we did at the same time last year,” observed Jimmy Vaccaro, director of operations at Lucky’s Sports Books, as Casino Player went to press.

The first book to post opening lines for all 256 games of the NFL’s 17-week season was Cantor Gaming. Race and sports book director Mike Colbert noted this year’s release date was about a month earlier than in the past. With the lockout dampening spirits at some books, Colbert was anxious to use the traditional dead period to help spark some interest. It worked. He estimated the handle was up slightly compared to the last two years. As expected, the early crowd was a mix of sharps and out-of-towners who wanted to put down a bunch of wagers on different upcoming games, since they wouldn’t be coming back to Vegas for a while. Colbert cited one Texan fan who made limit bets of two dimes on Houston on nine of their 16 games.

As more shops such as Lucky’s release spreads on the entire schedule, it provides excellent opportunities for bettors to seek line variances and either middle a game, or get an overlay or underlay on matchups where they think the oddsmaker has made a mistake. Colbert noted that he had already adjusted the numbers on some games by a point. Free-agent signings and injuries during the preseason games will create more line movement.

There was another group that cheered the signing of the CBA: touts and tout services. While I wouldn’t wish to disparage all who sell their picks, some of them do qualify as lower than pond scum. Yeah, that’s a harsh statement, but not likely to get too much dissent from those who have used tout services and been at best disappointed, or at worst, ripped off. It’s not by accident that these services are characterized by the term “scamdicapper.”

Full disclosure: I’m friends with many handicappers who sell picks, in Vegas and elsewhere. Most of the ones I know are honest and conscientious about their work. Nevertheless, I do not recommend buying picks. I realize some bettors feel they’re just not knowledgeable enough about the games to trust their own choices; others feel that when they’re risking large sums, it makes sense to get advice from “the experts” (in much the same way as investors pay for advice on stocks). The reality, however, is that a lot of tout services are far more adept at marketing themselves than they are at picking winners.

This year, the most ubiquitous and deceitful claims for picking “more winners than ever before” are being aimed at enthusiasts who buy annual football magazines. Moreover, some of the most compelling pitches are worming their way into our emails inboxes. Whether they come via print or electronic means, these missives from snake oil salesmen have one common denominator: through cleverly written and hyperbolic copy, they appeal to bettors who are gullible.

I consider the exercise of dealing with touts to be analogous to the thinning of the herd. Just as Mother Nature strengthens the animal kingdom in a cruel but necessary procedure by which weak or slow-witted animals fall to predators, so do guileless bettors take financial hits from human predators. Some learn their lessons quickly; others, not so quickly.

On a more positive note, it appears that there will be more football contests–weekly and seasonal–in Vegas this year, as the recession now appears to be in the rear-view mirror of the gaming industry. These contests are, of course, designed to get us (and any discretionary funds we might have) into the casinos.

These competitions are fun as well as potentially lucrative. When NFL seasons conclude each year, a lot of lucky or skilled bettors are greatly enriched by their picks. When full details become available I’ll provide essential information for entering the contests that offer not only the most attractive prizes, but the best chances of winning.

Non-Sporting Event Wagering Finally Emerges

Every bettor I know would love to be able to walk into a sports book, check the lines, and see a number that jumps off the board and screams “lock of the day!” That would be the most popular fantasy. A close second would be the ability to bet on all the same wagering opportunities that bettors in other countries enjoy–and the good news is, it’s becoming a reality.

I’m referring to an adjustment in Gaming Regulation 22.120, which prohibits all non-sporting event wagering. New regulations were adopted earlier this year. However, simply lifting the ban on such bets isn’t enough. The books have to get on board and start taking advantage of this option. Once they do, a large new market of opinionated prospects will be streaming toward the betting windows.

It’s not surprising that the first bookmaker to offer such action was Johnny Avello, race and sports director at Wynn Las Vegas. Innovative and aggressive, the veteran bet baron last month posted a variety of wagers on the World Series of Poker (WSOP). He offered bets such as whether a woman would finish higher than 40th place in the tournament’s main event, the $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas Hold ’em competition. Other bets offered odds on whether a number of poker legends would win money in the tournament, or whether this year’s champion would be born before January 1984.

Jimmy Vaccaro has long been a proponent of expanding the betting menu outside of sports and into areas such as entertainment and politics. Giving credit to Avello, he said “Johnny opened the door and it’s a welcome sight. Better late than never.”

The goal was to remove the traditional phrase “for entertainment purposes only” that accompanied odds-making on events like the Academy Awards.

Looking for new ways to generate betting revenue, Vaccaro foresees lots of action on picking MVPs of the World Series and Super Bowl, as well as betting on who will win the Heisman Trophy.

“Can you imagine the interest in putting odds on presidential elections? The handle would go through the roof!” he exclaimed. Rest assured that Lucky’s will be a leader in soliciting this new market.

Ideally, a majority of Vegas books will realize what many British and European bet shops as well as offshore sports books already know–that tapping into the inclination to put one’s money where one’s mouth is on a multitude of issues can be quite lucrative. Expanding the scope of props to go beyond the outcome of sports events is a natural. It just took Nevada a little time to catch up with the rest of the world.

 

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