Different isn’t always necessarily better. More intriguing? Sure, sometimes. Like in a can’t-look-away, rubbernecking type of way. But not necessarily better.
As one of sports betting’s “national holidays” – Week 1 of the NFL regular season – fast approaches, we’re reminded of that with a glance at some offshore sportbooks’ bets that are (thankfully) nowhere to be found on the boards of their legal, regulated stateside counterparts.
The longest offseason in major U.S.-based professional sports belongs to the NFL, which goes just over seven months between the Super Bowl and the opening week of the following regular season. That’s quite a stretch of time, but it’s usually a favorable recipe for sportsbooks.
When that slow, steady build of anticipation for those who like to plunk down money on pro football reaches its crescendo in that second Sunday in September, the cash – gobs of it – flows freely.
Offshore books = off-the-rails props
For the first time, sportsbooks outside of Nevada will enjoy some of that windfall when it comes to the regulated U.S. market. But offshore books still have an abundance of U.S. customers – bettors that they can leverage the eager anticipation of with a number of … ahem … questionable prop wagers.
This year, those unregulated entities are even heavily gravitating toward props that are a hell of a lot more “CNN” than “ESPN”. For example, you can now place action on whether:
- The NFL will settle out of court with Colin Kaepernick.
- If Nike will produce a signature Kapernick shoe.
- If President Donald Trump will take a swipe at Nike chairman Phil Knight over the entire Kapernick issue (“I’ll take scenarios with a –Gazillion line for 500, Alex”)
- What team will have the most players refuse to stand for the national anthem in Week 1.
And then you have plenty of other options where the oddsmakers at least make a faint attempt at pretending there’s a sports-based connection to what’s being offered. Have a gander at these other fine “investment opportunities”:
- How many games does the infamous “Madden curse” cost Steelers receiver Antonio Brown this season?
- Post-2018 retirement future props for prominent players such as Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.
- Total suspended players during the 2018 season.
- Odds on the Super Bowl LIII halftime artist (The Chainsmokers, Pink and Rihanna are the favorites)
- The “first head coach to get fired” – whether in-season or afterwards – prop (hint: Dirk Koetter, light a fire under your guys early and often).
A bad look for entire sports betting industry
The absurdity of some these wonky betting props belies the very real drag they represent on sports betting’s overall image. Namely, they help give weight the abundance of negative narratives often spouted by anti-gambling activists – those that say some are so addicted to the feeling of having action on something, they’ll wager on the outcome of almost anything.
In that regard, a regulated industry that has a sense of boundaries, even if those are sometimes partly imposed out of caution and self-preservation, is far from the worst thing in the world. In fact, given the scrutiny any newly legalized activity is bound to be under, it’s likely a winning proposition — unlike many of the ones you’ll find offshore these days.
Legal sportsbooks should not just be your destination to place a wager. (Quick reiteration of legal sportsbooks. Talking to you, offshore book, among others, that doesn’t deserve to be named because you for some reason still exist and are for some reason setting lines on if Colin Kaepernick gets a signature shoe or if Donald Trump will slam Phil Knight for Nike bringing on the controversial quarterback.)
Whoa. Shake it off.
Anyway, legal sportsbooks are not just for sports betting action. They’re educational tools composed of educated information crafted by highly educated folks. Plays, players, games, teams, leagues, sports, all handicapped by savants who rarely receive their proper due.
Meanwhile, holed up in a dark room lit only by the cold light of a computer screen and serenaded by the depressing soundtrack of the clacking of keyboard keys and the scratching of pencils-on-paper, “experts” provide their take on the 2018 NFL season.
One resource combines analytics, gut feelings and knowledge; the other composed of overanalysis and algorithms. One (hint: the legal sportsbook) mans the keg tap while running the lit playlist at a house party; the other (hint: FiveThirtyEight) lives at said house but was banished to the basement after spending an hour trying to decide what genre of music paired best with the craft beer using thousands of computer simulations.
Simulations that prove nothing
FiveThirtyEight recently unveiled its 2018 NFL predictions, utilizing a model that uses what it calls “Elo ratings,” which measures head-to-head results and quality of opponents. Per the site: “This forecast is based on 100,000 simulations of the season and updates after every game.”
“Good work, everyone,” sighed the simulation supervisor, drawing in a deep breath of stale, chick-pea-puffs-infused air.
Using much less time, and enjoying the light of day as a result, bookmakers churned out win totals and odds to make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. After the wiseguys got out their lines, FiveThirtyEight shared its computers’ simulation-derived work. For argument’s sake, we compared FiveThirtyEight’s predictions with the odds offered by FanDuel Sportsbook, which powered by longtime European bookmaker Paddy Power Betfair.
Of the 32 teams in the league, FiveThirtyEight had 23 with win totals that stood within one of those produced by FanDuel Sportsbook. Of that group, 15 were virtually exact or EXACTLY exact with FanDuel’s numbers. Fun fact, if nothing else. But what stands out with FiveThirtyEight should relieve the company that it’s not actually a sportsbook.
Value where value should not be
Last year’s FiveThirtyEight predictions are interesting to study. (In fairness, even sportsbooks get bad beats; and unforeseen injuries — like for Green Bay, Indianapolis and Houston — certainly hurt projections.)
Heading into Week 1 of the 2017 season, FiveThirtyEight gave the Philadelphia Eagles a 2 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl, one of the lowest in the league. They were forecast to finish third in the NFC East with an 8-8 record. Of course, Philly went on to go 13-3, win the division and the franchise’s first Super Bowl.
Other surprises cropped up: Jacksonville winning the AFC South after being projected to take last, and reaching the AFC Championship game; the Los Angeles Rams winning the NFC West after having the fourth-lowest percentage to reach the playoffs in the league. Sportsbooks also succumbed to such surprises. But the 2018 predictions from FiveThirtyEight are … surprising, to be nice about it.
Obviously, the company (sorry, its simulations) have the usual suspects atop the Super Bowl favorites: New England, Philadelphia, Minnesota and Pittsburgh. Same with FanDuel Sportsbook.
Let’s say FiveThirtyEight was a sportsbook. Where’s the value?
Oh, I’ll feed you, baby birds.
Start with the teams that are overrated (compared with FanDuel Sportsbook’s odds). Kansas City, per FiveThirtyEight will win the AFC West with 9.5 wins (8 wins by FanDuel). The Chiefs are the sixth-biggest favorite (12th by FanDuel) to reach the playoffs and the seventh-biggest favorite (16th by FanDuel) to win the Lombardi Trophy.
Never thought I’d say this, but Alex Smith is no longer there for the Chiefs. Their playmakers (Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill) are now on the radars of opponents. And KC’s defense is fragile. With the Chargers on the rise and the streakiness of the Raiders, the Chiefs have a difficult road ahead. Under on wins; yeah, OK, on playoffs; end of season.
FiveThirtyEight’s algorithm (dang robots) also overvalues Buffalo, which inexplicably reached the playoffs last year but not by their own doing. The company/fictional sportsbook has the Bills winning 8 games (FanDuel more accurately with 6.5) and with reasonable playoff chances at 36 percent. FanDuel gives Buffalo the longest odds at the postseason, which, without Tyrod Taylor and no other weapons seems more reasonable.
The greatest discrepancies between FiveThirtyEight and FanDuel Sportsbook come with Green Bay, Houston, and San Francisco.
Consider that in only two seasons the Packers have not made the playoffs with Aaron Rodgers as a starter: 2008 (his first year as the play-caller) and last year (when he was injured early in the season). Yet FiveThirtyEight projects Green Bay to take third in the NFC North with 7.1 wins (10 by FanDuel), a paltry 23 percent chance at the playoffs (FanDuel with sixth-best odds), and a mere 1 percent crack at the title (FD against with sixth-best odds).
A similar story is told with Houston, which was 3-4 and in the division title hunt before starter Deshaun Watson went down. FiveThirtyEight gives the Texans 6.3 wins (8.5 by FanDuel) to finish last in the AFC South and the fourth-lowest chance at reaching the postseason (ninth-best by FanDuel). San Francisco is also predicted to take last in its division with 7.3 wins (8.5 by FanDuel) with a slightly better playoff percentage than Green Bay but still in the lower half of the league (FanDuel with upper-half odds). This FiveThirtyEight forecast is for a team that features a QB, Jimmy Garoppolo, that went 5-0 as a 49ers starter last year and added offensive and defensive weapons in the offseason.
Certainly pocketing the potential to tell everyone, “I TOLD YOU SO! I CALLED IT!” while parading around the room like Rocky Balboa is the American dream.
But being able to take on the “experts” (FiveThirtyEight allows readers to do week-by-week picks to beat its projections) and scream, “I TOLD YOU SO!” is even sweeter.
European sports betting company Kambi has unveiled a new twist on parlays. The company is distributing the Teaser+ for immediate integration into online platforms like DraftKings Sportsbook and SugarHouse ahead of the NFL season in the U.S.
What even is a teaser?
For sports bettors new to the game, this announcement probably sounded like some kind of industry jargon. However, Teaser+ may end up becoming a close friend of many.
For those who are unsure, a teaser is a type of parlay bet. In a parlay, the bettor makes a single wager on a combination of events.
In order to win, the bettor must guess correctly on every single leg of the bet – for example, every team he or she bets must cover or beat the point spread. Obviously, making multiple correct picks is more difficult, and parlays come with higher payouts because of their increased risks.
Enter the teaser. A teaser allows the bettor to receive an adjustment on each game’s point spread in his or her favor. In return, the player receives a reduced payout amount.
Essentially, teasers appeal to sports bettors who are generally too risk-averse to attempt a parlay wager. A teaser is a way to hedge against the difficulty of pulling off a successful parlay.
Okay, so what is a Teaser+, then?
Custom teaser rates
The problem with the traditional teaser is that the line adjustment is applied uniformly across all legs of the parlay. However, not all games and matchups are created equal, and the adjustments end up being too much or not enough.
Teaser+ solves that problem. Instead of using blanket odds tables, Kambi uses alternative lines generated in-house that takes the team selections, match factors, and other variables into account.
The result is a group of teaser rates that are more precise for each wager. According to the press release, Teaser+ rates almost always result in a more generous adjustment than traditional teaser rates.
Pushes are no longer a problem
Another issue that bettors face in traditional parlays and teasers is when the teams push on the spread. Typically, since a push is decidedly not a win, the parlay drops that leg of the bet and pays (or doesn’t) with the reduced odds of a lower-tiered parlay.
Teaser+ basically breaks down parlays into individual bets. Because of that, the Teaser+ can treat ties like pushes and keep the teaser alive for its remaining legs.
This flexibility even works in a two-team bet. Teaser+ would simply push one game and pay the other as a single game wager.
“Kambi’s Teaser+ has the potential to fundamentally change how both operators and bettors consider teaser bets,” said Kambi CEO Kristian Nylen, in a press release. “Our modern approach (is) a step away from the current one-size-fits-all system (and) deliver(s) a fairer and more advantageous price to the player.”
Kambi continues to lead in sports betting innovation
Both DraftKings and PlaySugarHouse are already operating another Kambi product, Cash Out. Cash Out is a groundbreaking live ticket system that allows players to receive payouts on open tickets at any time during the match.
Players can even cash out after preliminary legs of a parlay. Essentially, every wager on DraftKings or PlaySugarHouse is now an in-game bet.
The payoff amount adjusts according to how the match or matches are proceeding, and obviously, players pay a premium for the reduction of risk. Still, the Cash Out system is nothing short of revolutionary, since players can hedge against last-second losses or the weakest leg of a parlay.
Teaser+ is not quite that much of a paradigm shift. However, players who were considering dipping their toes into the world of parlays should welcome the addition.
The result of Kambi’s innovation is a more intuitive and customized teaser system. Ultimately, it’s a win for both sportsbook and player.
When Caesars Entertainment opened The Linq (formerly Imperial Palace) in 2014, it was with the intent of offering a casino hotel for younger visitors to Las Vegas. Millennials of all types enjoy beer pong, music, and gambling at O’Sheas, a DJ with dancing girls and fancy cocktails at the 3535 area and a traditional casino experience elsewhere. Believe it or not, there are different types of millennials, and The Linq offers something for different preferences.
Las Vegas casinos are constantly evolving and trying to offer amenities that appeal to current and future customers. There was a time where sportsbooks in casinos were an amenity to give table game players a place to take a break from the action.
When The Linq opened, the casino had a traditional sportsbook as well as a sports bar called TAG. The original sportsbook just closed and is part of a new larger sports bar and sportsbook concept called “The Book.”
Variety of sportsbooks
Earlier this year we noted the variety of sportsbooks at MGM Resorts International casinos. The casino operator offers different sportsbook experiences at just about every casino. While traditional sportsbooks remain popular, there’s more than one way to build a sportsbook.
There’s no longer a one-size-fits-all sportsbook model in Las Vegas. The majority of casinos on the Vegas Strip today are owned by corporations and want to monetize every square inch of land they own. Some casino operators are taking this mindset to the sportsbook. It might come as a surprise to learn that casino operators don’t want people sitting around their valuable property not spending money.
Over the years, Caesars Entertainment has offered mostly a traditional style sportsbook at their Las Vegas properties. Last year they added a row of VIP seats that guest could reserve so they don’t have to scramble to find a seat on busy days. The Book is a step beyond the traditional sportsbook.
Introducing The Book
— Marc (@MeltzVegas) September 7, 2018
The new sportsbook at The Linq is called simply The Book. This is the latest evolution in what a sportsbook can be. Lagasse’s Stadium ushered in the restaurant and bar sportsbook in 2009. That concept can be seen at SLS Las Vegas and most recently at The Moneyline at Park MGM (formerly Monte Carlo).
The Book is far from a traditional sportsbook and plays to the younger demographic that The Linq has been targeting since it opened. This is as much an interactive sports bar as it’s a sportsbook. It’s designed for guests to take control of their gambling and gaming experience. Yes – The Book has a non-gambling gaming element with X-Box and augmented reality games. Here are some features at The Book.
- 87 televisions (some as large as 98”)
- The Vegas Strip’s highest resolution LED video wall (note the Westgate is not on the Vegas Strip)
- Fan Caves with couches, recliners, X-Box systems, virtual reality goggles, and waitress service
- 24 self-serve beer taps
- Tablets to eventually place wagers and order drinks (not operational yet)
- Bar with video poker
- General admission seating at the bar or annex
- Food truck
The Vegas experience
The Moneyline at Park MGM is more of a bar and restaurant with a sportsbook. The Book at The Linq is more of a bar with comfortable living room-style seating and sportsbook. Some Las Vegas sportsbooks like Mandalay Bay are receiving an update with new video screens. Some casino operators are creating entirely new sportsbooks that offer a different way of watching and wagering on sports.
It will take a lot of creativity at casinos and sportsbooks around the country to keep up with the Las Vegas sportsbook experience. The spaces are no longer only TVs and chairs. Depending on the casino you visit you’ll find that Las Vegas sportsbooks may offer huge screens, restaurants, bars, video games, bar games, and even traditional casino games.