Alternative football leagues have garnered a well-earned reputation as a fool’s errand over the last several decades.
The recently announced Alliance of American Football (AAF) could ultimately prove an exception to the rule. Legalized sports betting — a potential magnet that predecessors like the AFL, USFL and UFL couldn’t reap the benefits of — is poised to play a part in that.
AAF coming off as organized, progressive
To be clear, the AAF has already laid out what appears to be a rock-solid foundation in an operational sense:
- The league has snagged a pair of notable TV partners, CBS and CBS Sports Network, for its inaugural season.
- It boasts a management structure replete with respected names, including former Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers general manager Bill Polian.
- It plans to play with a manageable eight teams – five in non-NFL cities – over a 10-week period during the football-barren spring.
- It’s contracted a slew of head coaches that pack solid name recognition, including Steve Spurrier, Mike Singletary and Mike Martz.
- It includes several rules designed to speed up and/or make the game more exciting, including limited coach’s challenges, a shorter play clock and two-point conversions in lieu of extra points.
- And perhaps just as important, it’s co-founded by Charlie Ebersol, who’s made no bones of his intentions to make fan integration – a large part of it via mobile technology – a pivotal part of the AAF experience.
League’s planned fantasy product projected to have sports betting-like format
The final point partly alludes to the AAF’s plans for its in-house fantasy product. Notably, the AAF’s planned mobile app will not only stream games free of charge – it will also reportedly include “a fully integrated fantasy experience, where you can play while you’re watching”, according to Ebersol.
Taken at face value, it sounds as if the AAF is primed to offer the fantasy equivalent of in-game prop betting. That model is currently being deployed with varying level of success by operators such as Boom Fantasy and Fanamana’s InGame Fantasy. However, as a proprietary offering of a professional sports league, it would seemingly qualify as a first.
Embrace of new landscape would be a prudent move
And if the AAF is already thinking outside the box with respect to fantasy football, what’s to say it won’t cozy up to sports betting in some form or fashion?
An AAF-sponsored sportsbook is a bit much. However, an embrace of the new legalized sports betting landscape — one that includes information on lines and props being disseminated on the league’s broadcast and digital properties — is perfectly plausible.
After all, the inevitable media avalanche of sports betting content has already started rolling downhill:
- Brent Musburger’s Vegas Stats and Information Network, a pioneer of sorts, launched more than a full year before the recent landmark SCOTUS decision.
- ESPN then waited all of about five minutes after the eradication of PASPA before kicking off “I’ll Take That Bet” — featuring prognostications from several experts — on its streaming platform, in conjunction with the Action Network.
- The NFL consented to sports betting content having a prominent presence on network pregame shows for years when the activity was illegal; it only stands to reason that type of content will be exponentially pervasive now that the ban has been obliterated.
AAF’s timing may be particularly fortuitous
The ability to put some skin in the game has long been proven to enhance the viewership of a variety of sports. Nevada-based wagering and illegal betting have both corroborated this over the years – especially with football. And more recently, daily fantasy sports and its often-mammoth jackpots has also moved the needle of fan interest.
The fact the league is partly headed by an apparently forward-thinking 30-something in Ebersol doesn’t hurt, either. Given his age, he’s undoubtedly fully in the loop with today’s technology and media consumption trends – the AAF’s aforementioned plans for its fantasy product clearly bear that out.
And their apparently keen awareness of what appeals to the modern fan is likely to lead to a healthy relationship with legal sports wagering – a very good bet for a league trying to beat some steep odds.
After all, there’s nothing like being able to plunk down a few bucks on whether Singletary will fire up his squad by shedding his pants to keep eyeballs on the product.
Image courtesy of Alliance of American Football
Delaware became the first state to launch full-scale sports betting after PASPA was found unconstitutional. The first look at futures odds shows some regional bias and high vig.
Being the nit that I am, I decided to dig into the numbers to see just how badly Delaware players are getting the shaft. I used the Sports Futures Calculator at Wizard of Odds for the math.
Regional bias obvious in NFL futures
Are you near Delaware and want to make a futures wager on a regional team? You may want to take a trip to Nevada to do it. The same can be said for some West Coast teams having better prices in Delaware.
The price that stuck out the most was the Philadelphia Eagles winning the Super Bowl. At Delaware sportsbooks, that only pays +450. William Hill offers this bet at +800 in Nevada. BetOnline, an unlicensed sportsbook that accepts bets from Delaware players, also has the Eagles as an 8/1 payout. Westgate pays +1000 on an Eagles repeat. That’s quite a discrepancy.
The Baltimore Ravens are offered at +6000 to win the Super Bowl in Nevada. Delaware sportsbooks posted that number at +3500. The Washington Redskins are +10000 at Nevada William Hill sportsbooks, but +7500 in Delaware. The Steelers see a slashed price in Delaware at +1000 when compared to Nevada’s +1200.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles Rams bettors may not want to buy a futures bet in Nevada, where it only pays +800. It’s +1200 in Delaware. The soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders are +1200 in Nevada and +1800 in Delaware. The Chargers pay +2500 in Delaware betting shops, but Willian Hill in Nevada hangs +2000 for the same bet.
One price that made no sense between the states is the Atlanta Falcons. In Nevada, Will Hill bettors only get +1200. In Delaware, it’s +2200. This was the only instance I found where a city significantly closer to Delaware than Nevada saw a much better price in Delaware. William Hill may need a geography lesson, or perhaps Delaware bettors know better than Nevada ones that the Atlanta Falcons are overhyped trash.
Major League Baseball pennant races
The regional bias was not as noticeable in Major League Baseball. However, there were still some clear differences. The Philadelphia Phillies are +650 in Delaware. That same bet gets +3000 at William Hill in Nevada. The Braves, a team with legacy fans in the region from the days of TBS broadcasts, only pay +800 in Delaware. That same bet is +4000 at William Hill in Nevada.
The longshots paid at least double in Delaware when compared to Nevada. This may be related to a state lottery’s hopes in enticing players to make sucker bets. There is not a major difference in betting the lowly 22-41 Cincinnati Reds at 50-1 or 999-1, especially when the price of favorites is slashed to make up for it.
Comparing Delaware futures vig to other markets
The vig on futures bets in Delaware is high. The markets I evaluated fell just short of 30%. They were only marginally worse than the William Hill Nevada holds. On the other hand, they were 5-10 basis points above the benchmark Westgate sportsbook in Las Vegas and the offshore sportsbook BetOnline. Here’s a full breakdown of 2018 NFL futures at the four sportsbooks as of June 7.
|Team||Delaware||William Hill LV||Westgate LV||BetOnline
There probably is not a reason to drive to Delaware to make a sports futures bet. It could only be a matter of days before New Jersey becomes an option with a competitive market that may be worth the drive for some in the region.
With about 8 minutes remaining in the third period of Game 5 in the Stanley Cup finals, Lars Ellers netted a goal to put the Washington Capitals up 4-3 against the Vegas Golden Knights. All up and down the Strip, people rejoiced…
…as in the people who operate sportsbooks.
Vegas books stood to lose around $5-6 million if the Golden Knights won, according to ESPN.
William Hill claims it was their biggest liability in Vegas since opening up shop in 2012.
Actually, the Golden Knights were great for Vegas
Let’s push aside the economic impact the Golden Knights had on the city in general, as fans embraced the team like a Midwesterner takes to the Rio seafood buffet: with gusto and unbridled enthusiasm, continually coming back for more.
The Golden Knights also brought a 36% rise in NHL handle to Vegas sportsbooks.
There’s always next year…
How things can change in a year. Around this time in 2017, you could get the Golden Knights to win the Stanley Cup at 500-1. Early Westgate odds have them as second overall favorite for next year, listed at 10-1. The storied Tampa Bay Lightning franchise is current favorites at 8-1.
This year’s champs, the Washington Capitals, are 12-1.