Among the pro sports leagues, the NBA is often credited with being the trailblazer when it comes to sports betting.
Another first between pro sports leagues and casinos
After a teaser late last week, Monday brought the joint announcement from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and MGM Resorts Chairman & CEO Jim Murren that the NHL and MGM have entered into a “multi-year strategic relationship in the sports betting category”. The non-exclusive agreement makes MGM the NHL’s first official sports betting partner.
As in their agreement with the NBA, MGM is agreeing to eventually utilize “official league data” when grading wagers on NHL contests. More from the official press release:
As part of the relationship, MGM Resorts will receive access to previously unseen enhanced NHL proprietary game data that will be generated by the League’s state of the art tracking systems currently under development. Access to this data will allow MGM Resorts to provide its customers with specialized NHL game insights, as well as unlocking new and innovative interactive fan engagement and betting opportunities for its U.S. customers wherever legally available.
The end result for the bettor is that MGM will apparently offer a full array of in-game betting options for NHL games in part based on reported forthcoming innovations such as puck tracking and other advanced statistics regarding player performance. NHL Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer Keith Wachtel alluded to the fact that the league’s new enhanced data collection initiative — originally developed with the idea of supplementing game broadcasts — is certainly implementable in sports betting scenarios as well.
The partnership doesn’t preclude the NHL’s clubs from striking individual agreements with casino operators at the team level.
Agreement symbolic of leagues’ shifting strategy on fees?
And then there’s the legislative angle to the whole situation.
With apologies to the NFL – which still is keeping sports betting at arm’s length compared to their basketball and hockey brethren — the NBA and now NHL seem to be growing quite adept at the good, old-fashioned end-around. Repeatedly rebuffed by state legislators (with the prominent voices of sportsbooks making plenty of noise behind them in the peanut gallery) in their quest for both integrity and data usage fees, the NBA and NHL appear to have found another means to an end in their deals with MGM.
While the respective partnership deals the casino has signed with the two leagues over the last 90 days extend beyond just remuneration for official data usage, that is undeniably a component of each. A win is a win, as they say. Both leagues have at minimum set a precedent – albeit through a commercial agreement – for compensation with respect to their official statistical information.
Naturally, that guarantees nothing for the leagues on the legislative front. However, if more gaming industry heavyweights jump on board with similar agreements, the leagues could essentially reach their objective on the “getting a cut” front without having to hassle with state legislatures across the country over the next several years.
I’m making my first-ever trip to Churchill Downs this week for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Nov. 2-3. My coverage of this event goes beyond the beauty and pageantry of racing’s biggest event of the year. I’m a sports handicapper and analyst and provide some coverage for Twinspires and Churchill Downs on betting the races and sports. And like sports betting, finding value and betting it will provide more profit when playing the ponies.
The Breeders’ Cup consists of 14 races with prize pools from $1 to $6 million totaling more than $30 million. Full fields of 14 horses in all but one of the races provides the opportunity for more winners at bigger prices and odds. And this year, the expanded menu will include head-to-head matchups and increased betting opportunities which should prove to be very popular.
Future Stars Friday
A record 221 horses were pre-entered for this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The final entrants, post positions and odds were determined on Monday. All of the races on the Breeders’ Cup card each year play a critical role in determining year-end champions in the respective divisions.
For the first time in Breeders’ Cup history, the championships will have all the 2-year-old races on opening day Nov. 2, dubbed “Future Stars Friday.” These five juvenile races are part of the expanded wagering menu that will include the “Future Stars Friday Pick 5,” where horse players can bet on the top-5 finishers in correct order for each race. A difficult wager to hit, the payoffs can be big and multi-million-dollar betting pools are nothing new to the Breeders’ Cup. The “Future Stars Friday Pick 5” will have a guaranteed pool of $1 million. There will be three additional Pick 5 wagering opportunities on Saturday, Nov. 3 when nine Breeders’ Cup races make up the biggest racing day of the year. The late Pick 5 on Saturday has a $2 million guaranteed prize pool and includes the $6 million Classic, which will have a carryover pool added if none of the first three Pick-5s produce a winner.
The Pick 5 is one of the most popular wagers in the country as it offers a $.50-cent minimum wager and a player-friendly 15% takeout, allowing more racing fans to take a shot at a bigger payday with less takeout. In addition, the Jackpot Super High 5 wager also with a $.50-cent minimum will be offered on every race on the Friday and Saturday cards, including the undercard races on Friday. If the bet goes unhit and there are no winning tickets, the carryover pool will continue to the next race, including into Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup card.
Head-to-Head wagering added
Sports bettors and racing fans familiar with head-to-head match-up wagering in golf, or wagers that have no point spread and are offered as an even-money proposition will certainly like having the head-to-head wagering option. For a $10 minimum wager with a 10% takeout rate, the Breeders’ Cup will select three head-to-head offerings Friday and four on Saturday. One will include the race favorite Accelerate in the $6 million Classic against a to-be-determined horse running in the race, perhaps one of the two Bob Baffert-trained colts West Coast or McKinzie. A bettor can simply bet on which horse will finish ahead of the other in a head-to-head match-up of a race.
Gambling on horse racing
The biggest gamble in horse racing is at the auctions, where people or groups of people and syndicates bid and buy horses hoping to score the next Triple Crown winner like Justify this year. But the odds are stacked against them and those racehorse owners or partners can spend millions on horses with a very low percentage of them ever running in a Triple Crown race of the Breeders’ Cup. Out of the 2,916 yearlings sold for $377 million at this year’s September yearling sale at Keeneland, an hour from Churchill Downs, 27 sold for at least $1 million.
“Lottery tickets are getting more expensive, and that’s basically what it is,” Baffert said. “… We all know at the end of the day, the percentage of them that’s going to be really good horses is pretty low. But it’s the dream, you know.”
And at the Breeders’ Cup, regular race fans can dream of a big score with less risk when wagering on the expanded Pick 5s or the exacta, trifecta, superfecta or Pick-6. Head-to-head match-up betting and win wagers will be popular for the horse players and fans, and add to the bottom line for the Breeders’ Cup. But the bottom line is to have fun, enjoy the entertainment and profit from the experience. A few winning wagers will help.
The Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson heads-up match is less than a month away. All of the major details are now in place: Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving, at Shadow Creek golf course in Las Vegas.
HBO released the trailer for the series 24/7 THE MATCH: TIGER VS. PHIL on Monday. As if we needed more reason to get hyped for this.
With the end-of-season up-tick in Woods’ game, the match now carries even more weight and intrigue. We wrote about how perfect this was for gambling before, and not just because these two once had bad blood (their relationship was “cool at best, unfriendly at worst”) and Mickelson has a propensity to gamble large sums of money.
Because this is a made-for-TV event with two hyper-competitive personalities, and wagering is part of the golfing culture in general, the prop bet possibilities should elevate this match to legendary status.
Unfortunately, reality hasn’t met expectation yet, particularly on the prop betting side.
The most interesting props listed to date have to do with obvious (and lame) wagers like “What color shirt” will one of them wear.
Vegas, we’re better than that.
Here’s a list of props we’d like to see.
Let’s make it interesting…
To date, the craziest made-for-(Internet)-TV golf betting event I witnessed was Erick Lindgren’s June 2007 golf prop. It was around 115 degrees that day, and there were some legitimate, “Will he even live through this?” props being bandied about.
Lindgren was a man only against his own willpower. Mickelson and Woods are among the greatest golfers to ever swing a club. Props can go in so many different directions. Here’s just a few:
- Longest Drive: This plays well into the old 2003 equipment controversy, and is a genuine Alpha-male measuring stick. No-brainer. Bet Tiger.
- How Many Cutaways to Tiger’s Girlfriend: There have been similar Tom Brady-Giselle Super Bowl props, and given the, “Wait, who the hell is that?” stories this generated at Tiger’s PGA Championship win, it’s a solid prop. Bet the over, whatever it is.
- Number of Awkward High-Fives: Love this one. First, all pro golfer high-fives are awkward. Second, will Phil and Tiger be friendly? They don’t really like each other. If they pretend to like each other and attempt a high-five, it’s immediately historically meme-worthy. Regardless, given their past history and competitiveness, if this is offered, take the under.
- Over/Under on Swear Words: Tiger was not-so-secretly an a-hole. Phil was secretly an a-hole. With a suggested $19.99 PPV price, golf them up and let them let f-bombs fly. Tiger, even when on network TV, makes Ralphie’s dad look like Mr. Rogers. Heavy bet the over if offered.
- First to Hit Drive Out of Bounds and / or First to Hit Drive into Rough: As a glorified exhibition, these two will be pulling driver out early and often. A secondary prop to this would be, “What hole will golfer first drive into the rough…” Either way, bet Woods and early.
- Number of Holes Tiger / Phil Use Driver: Everything about this match should be big. Including the club choice. Let it rip, take the over.
- Total Tiger / Phil Putts: If Tiger wins, it’s because his putting game is on. If you like Tiger, then you’d like the under on this one.
- Over / Under on Tiger Fist Pumps: Again, if you’re already betting Tiger, parlay the over on fist pumps.
- Mickelson vs. Arizona State: Mickelson went to Arizona State. ASU plays their rivalry game against Arizona the day after Phil plays Tiger. Let’s pit Mickelson’s total vs. the over-under on ASU vs. Arizona. Maybe Herm Edwards can even give Phil a pre-packaged “You play to win the game!” pep talk.
- Weigh-In Props: The match is in Vegas. Vegas is known for their fighter weigh-ins. Can’t somebody sponsor a Mickelson-Woods pre-match weigh-in? It’s the day after Thanksgiving, so bet the Lefty over.
- Get In the Hole! Props: Least favorite thing about live golf are all of the “get in the hole” idiots. That could all change, of course, if it was a prop that I could take the over on. Turn a negative into a positive. Lean heavy on the over.
Step it up, Vegas. Everything about this match should be fun and semi-ridiculous. Time for the props to catch up.
Each week, TheLines takes a look back at some of the worst sports betting “bad beats” from the weekend of college and pro football. These incredible moments caused a swing in money at sportsbooks, resulting in jubilation — and plenty of pain — for bettors everywhere.
Los Angeles Rams 29, Green Bay Packers 27
Line: Rams -7.5
Bad beats happen every week in college and pro football. Then there are beats that are all-timers. Beats so bad they will be talked about by gamblers and in Las Vegas forever. On Sunday, we had one of those beats.
I’m sure you’ve seen the play by now. The Rams led 29-27 with just over a minute to go in the game when Todd Gurley broke free for what looked like a 21-yard touchdown run. The score would have not only covered the spread for many Rams bettors (the line opened at 9.5), it also would have put the game OVER the total.
Todd Gurley doesn't care about your fantasy team, the spread, or the over/under. pic.twitter.com/xNoc42LdyB
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) October 28, 2018
First, let’s state the obvious: Gurley absolutely did the right thing by not scoring. Forget about gambling or your fantasy team, it makes no sense for Gurley to score in that situation. Would the Rams win the game up nine points with less than a minute left? Most likely. The difference is they are guaranteed to win the game if Gurley doesn’t score. While the odds may not be high, the Packers still have a mathematical chance to win the game if they get the ball back down nine points. They have zero chance to win the game if Gurley takes a knee and the clock runs out.
Now let’s get to the gambling fallout of Gurley’s decision. The Rams/Packers matchup was the most bet game on Sunday at most sportsbooks. In other words, there was a lot of money riding on the game and Gurley’s decision was the difference between winning and losing for many people.
The line opened at 9.5 and that was the number used in the Westgate SuperContest where Green Bay was the most popular pick. However, the number closed at Rams -7.5 and close to 60 percent of bets were on the Packers, although 60 percent of the money wagered was on the Rams. Obviously, Gurley’s decision not to score was a huge swing for many people.
The total is a different story with a majority of the money coming in on one side. With two high-scoring teams facing each other, it’s not surprising that 75 percent of bets and 83 percent of the money wagered was on the OVER. That’s the toughest beat of the game because the play happened on 3rd and 10. If Gurley just gets stopped, there’s a possibility the Rams kick a field goal and the game goes OVER 57. The fact that Gurley broke free for a touchdown and decided to take a knee instead was a crushing blow to OVER bettors.
Also crushing? Gurley trolling bettors and fantasy players on Twitter after the game.
— Todd Gurley II (@TG3II) October 29, 2018
No matter what side you were on, the Gurley non-score is a play that won’t soon be forgotten in the gambling community.
Nebraska 45, Bethune-Cookman 9
Line: Nebraska -41
Did you have Nebraska laying 41 points on Saturday? If so, you suffered one of the worst beats of the college football season.
As expected, the Cornhuskers were cruising at home. Nebraska scored early in the fourth quarter to make it 45-3 then called off the dogs. The problem for Nebraska bettors is they needed one more score to prevent Bethune-Cookman from sneaking in the back door.
It didn’t look like it would be an issue because the Wildcats couldn’t do anything on offense. Bethune-Cookman got the ball with 7:08 remaining. The Wildcats just wanted to take their check and go home, so they started running the ball. In one of the most unbelievable drives you’ll ever see to cover a spread, Bethune-Cookman held the ball for 10 plays and went 82 yards. Nine of those plays were runs.
Bethune-Cookman had no desire to score a touchdown. They even got a delay of game on 3rd and 1 and then ran the ball for 11 yards on 3rd and 6. It’s really one of the most amazing final drives for a bad beat in the history of football.
On the final play of the game with the clocking ticking down, Bethune-Cookman handed the ball off again to running back Alfred Adams, who crossed the goal line for a 5-yard touchdown with no time left to cover the spread. Oh yeah, it was Adams’ first career touchdown too and he’s a senior. Can’t make it up.
Alfred Adams gets his first career TD and gets the Cats their first TD of the game. pic.twitter.com/Wy4qQFLJ4i
— 🏈 #BeatNebraska 🐱 (@BCUGridiron) October 27, 2018
A 10-play drive. Nine runs. Bethune-Cookman marched down the field to score with zeros on the clock. That’s a tough beat.
Iowa State 40, Texas Tech 31
Line: Texas Tech +5.5
This was an entertaining, back and forth game. Until the very end, it was the kind of game where you were nervous laying points because from the second quarter on, no team had more than a touchdown lead. That held true right up until the last couple of minutes.
Texas Tech trailed 31-24 entering the fourth quarter but the Red Raiders tied things up when Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy fumbled in the end zone and Dakota Allen fell on the ball for a touchdown.
Texas Tech backers had to feel like they were in good shape when the Red Raiders had the ball with 4:39 remaining in a tie game. This time though, it was Texas Tech quarterback Alan Bowman who got sacked in the end zone for a safety, giving Iowa State a 33-31 lead and the ball.
Now, with just over four minutes remaining, even an Iowa State field goal doesn’t cover the spread. Unfortunately for Texas Tech bettors, a touchdown did.
Iowa State faced a 3rd and 9 from the Texas Tech 48-yard line. A first down and the game is essentially over because Iowa State could run out the clock. Instead, Purdy hit Hakeem Butler for a 48-yard touchdown to give the Cyclones a 40-31 lead and Texas Tech bettors a punch to the gut.
A HUGE play as Hakeem Butler pulls in a great catch off a Brock Purdy pass.
Cyclones lead the Red Raiders 40-31 pic.twitter.com/lHOBT5lvA4
— Barstool Big 12 (@BarstoolBig12) October 27, 2018
The Red Raiders did have just over two minutes left to score a “meaningless” touchdown and cover the spread. It wasn’t meant to be though as Bowman was intercepted with 1:40 left, ending any hope for a late cover.
The touchdown by Iowa State marked the first time since 13:35 in the second quarter that either team led by more than one possession. The sportsbooks took a hit on the late score by the Cyclones with around 60 percent of the money coming in on Iowa State.