In what’s arguably turning into the most eventful week in the brief history of the Alliance of American Football (AAF), DraftKings Sportsbook announced Wednesday that it would begin offering lines on the league’s games immediately.
And they’re not the only ones.
MGM Resorts International, the league’s official gaming partner, posted AAF betting markets for the first time Wednesday at its New Jersey sportsbook as well. MGM had already offered point spread and over/under bets for the first two weeks of AAF games in its Las Vegas brick-and-mortar sportsbook and on the Nevada edition of its playMGM app.
Then, late Wednesday afternoon, futures odds on the league winner were posted for the first time on FanDuel Sportsbook. Kevin Hennessy, FanDuel’s Director of Publicity, informed TheLines.com via e-mail that AAF Week 3 odds will be posted closer to the weekend.
Delayed rollout of AAF betting in New Jersey
A look at the DraftKings Sportsbook app reveals the operator is already offering moneyline bets on AAF games in addition to wagers on point spreads and projected game totals. Moreover, DK is also offering futures bets on the eventual AAF champion. As per an e-mail from DK’s Brian Brown, the company has “plans to expand in the future” with respect to the type of wagers offered.
DraftKings — along with the rest of New Jersey’s sportsbooks — notably sat out the first two weeks of AAF action. That was a somewhat curious development, considering the potential of pro football betting markets.
Given the statewide moratorium, it’s evident the approval process required by the Division of Gaming Enforcement was part of the reason for delay. But Brown adds that in DK’s case, the operator was “evaluating the AAF as a potential add-in” as well.
One aspect of that vetting process could have well been tied in to oddsmakers seeking a better feel for each team. Setting lines for upstart leagues in any sport is inherently challenging. Doing so without even a week of sample size is exponentially difficult.
League’s recent financial tumult also a factor?
Moreover, in a separate e-mail response to a request for clarification of what other AAF-based betting options DK Sportsbook could eventually offer, Brown explained the company will “be keeping an eye on the state of the AAF and our users’ interaction with those bet types [that will be initially offered] to determine next steps.”
The reference to monitoring the state of the league itself particularly stands out. Even as it seems a tad cryptic, it’s with good reason. Tuesday, Darren Rovell of The Action Network relayed some rather disconcerting news that implied the league’s very future was in peril after just a week of play:
The AAF missed payroll in Week 1. They told agents that it was a glitch with switching to a new administrator. They told players would be paid by today the latest.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) February 19, 2019
Rovell’s tweet was preceded by the Athletic’s original report on the matter. That story included the news that Tom Dundon, owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, recently provided a $250 million cash infusion that kept the league afloat. The AAF just began play Feb. 9 and has two weeks’ worth of games in the books. The league features eight league-controlled teams playing a 10-week regular season, one round of playoffs and a championship game on April 27.
Subsequent statements from both Dundon and the AAF have labeled the 47-year-old billionaire’s contribution as buy-in and not bailout. Irrespective of the terminology, Dundon characterizes the new money as capable of keeping the league “viable for years and years to come”, which is the more salient point.
More AAF New Jersey sportsbook dominos likely to fall
With DraftKings, FanDuel and MGM now offering odds on the league, the assumption is that the likes of 888 Sportsbook and BetStars NJ will soon follow suit (UPDATE: BetStars NJ is offering AAF wagers on point spreads, moneylines and projected totals as of Thursday morning).
Garden State precedent seemingly dictates that AAF betting is likely to be offered on a statewide basis in fairly short order. To date, New Jersey sportsbooks have essentially mirrored each other when it comes to the betting markets offered.
Oscars week has arrived.
The stars are picking out their wardrobes for Sunday’s 91st Academy Awards. The red carpet reporters are honing their “Who are you wearing?” questions that we all so desperately want to hear the answers to. (Particularly from Chris Pratt.)
For the first time in 30 years, the most-watched awards show will go on without a host, thanks to Kevin Hart taking a page out of the Amtrak how-to book and going off the rails.
This year, though, the Oscars might sit in an ideal position for viewership. In using a variety of stars throughout the awards show, the Oscars, according to some former producers, could actually be MORE entertaining. To boot, for the first time ever, legal wagering on the Academy Awards is taking place in New Jersey.
While the Garden State pads its ever-burgeoning NJ sports betting industry by integrating the Oscars, while also encroaching on a market that had been exclusively offered by offshore sportsbooks, there’s a question that has yet to be answered:
Is it all worth it?
NJ sports betting adds Oscars
New Jersey has certainly taken advantage of this new Oscars market. The industry boasts 12 online sportsbooks that currently offer wagers on the Oscars, each listing between a single category (DraftKings Sportsbook) and an eye-opening 23 categories (playMGM).
Most apps feature lines on the Big Six categories:
- Best Picture
- Best Director
- Best Actor
- Best Actress
- Best Supporting Actor
- Best Supporting Actress
Certainly, such Oscars integration allows NJ sportsbooks to diversify their offerings, perhaps even attract customers they otherwise would not have reached. Similar to how online sports betting products have merged with NJ online casinos via shared wallets to build their customer bases.
But the Oscars is a one-night event. The “season” will last less than a month. The payoff will be fractional. The event itself had long been avoided in Nevada, taking into consideration potential integrity issues with the awards. And already, New Jersey, in a “one-time-only” (for now) opportunity to offer Oscars betting, has hit some speed bumps.
Early hiccups bring up the question of value
Mere days after the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement signed off on sportsbooks offering Oscars wagers, the DGE reneged.
All odds on the Academy Awards were pulled off the board. Sources told Legal Sports Report that the regulatory body told operators to do so, though no indication as to why ever emerged.
It could be that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences requested lines be taken down. It could be that the DGE approved one operator to offer Oscars lines, and multiple platforms took that as an overarching approval.
Whatever the reason, odds eventually went back up — and expanded to other online sportsbooks. Periodically, too, operators take down all their Oscars odds, like earlier this month, when many sportsbooks pulled Oscars lines ahead of the British Academy Film Awards, which traditionally paint a picture of how the Oscars play out. (Oscars voting begins two days after the BAFTAs conclude.)
Including this instance, operators have sporadically taken down lines to adjust odds, whereas lines for sporting events get live updates without getting pulled from the board.
All this work, for what?
Is Oscars betting worth it?
Time will only tell, really. The future of regulated Oscars betting remains to be seen. Remember, the DGE emphasized that wagering on the Academy Awards is for this year only. At least, for now.
When the DGE allowed NJ sportsbooks to include Oscars markets, it was obviously met with excitement. A novelty market essentially taken from the playbook of overseas and offshore sportsbooks.
But the laborious efforts to pull down lines, adjust and repost, several times each week, all while attempting to protect the integrity of it all — it seems too much to deal with. And for what?
Oscars betting will not become a windfall for NJ sports betting revenue. At best, $1 million in handle. But even that appears a stretch, considering operators like DraftKings and BetStars, among others, limit how much customers can wager. DraftKings, for example, caps potential winnings at around $100, while BetStars goes the other way, setting its limit at a “lay to lose” total of $300.
This, of course, sets a ceiling on the overall handle of NJ sportsbooks as well as potential revenue.
Is it all worth it? Apparently so. Not because of a financial boon, though. Simply as a steppingstone to continue building customer bases.
With NBA All-Star Weekend in the rear-view mirror, how do oddsmakers view the remainder of the season?
The Golden State Warriors are not surprisingly odds-on favorites to threepeat, listed around -210 at New Jersey sportsbooks. While they do not own the league’s best point differential (that belongs to the Milwaukee Bucks, more on them shortly), FiveThirtyEight agrees with their favorite status, projecting them at 62% to win the title.
Are the Bucks undervalued?
Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee owns the NBA’s best record (43-14, followed by the Toronto Raptors at 43-16 and Golden State at 41-16). More importantly, they own the best point differential, often the best indicator to a team’s overall strength, at +9.8. Golden State is the next closest at -7.1, 2.7 points lower. The Bucks have the best defensive efficiency rating (Golden State is 16th) and fourth-best offensive efficiency rating (Golden State is 1st).
Despite all of this, Milwaukee is only the third favorite to win the final on BetStars NJ at 10/1 (+1000), and third at FanDuel Sportsbook at +1200 (tied with Philadelphia). On BetStars, they’re the fourth favorite to win the Eastern Conference at +300 behind the Raptors (+250), 76ers (+275) and Celtics (+275).
2019 NBA Title Futures Odds
Meanwhile, Lakers not expected to reach playoffs
This was probably not how LeBron James expected his first season in LA to go, is it?
James, usually an injury-proof iron man, has missed significant time this season. He was unable to orchestrate a trade for Anthony Davis. And his team is on the outside-looking-in of the Western Conference playoffs.
At 28-29, the Lakers are a full three games out of the eighth seed. At one point during the season, LeBron & Co. were -600 to make the post-season. Now, the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas has them as an underdog to make the playoffs.