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.
Not surprisingly, the immensely unlikable Golden State Warriors are already prohibitive favorites to hoist another Larry O’Brien trophy at 5/4.
Also not surprisingly, the Houston Rockets were second favorites at 7/2.
But there were some surprises. Joining the Rockets at second overall favorites were the Philadelphia 76ers at 7/2.
And despite not making the playoffs this year and having one of the youngest teams in the league, the LA Lakers are listed at 20/1, which is better odds than LeBron’s current team, the Cavaliers (30/1).
Does Vegas know something?🤔
Or is Vegas just learning to hedge from past betting experiences?
In 2014, sportsbooks saw a flurry of Cavs futures wagers in the days before LeBron announced he was “coming home.” In 2016, the Warriors saw some high-volume action right before Kevin Durant bolted OKC to form a super team in the Bay.
LeBron has most been linked to the 76ers and Lakers in free agent talk, although he took a shot at Sixers GM Bryan Colangelo and his burner Twitter accounts.
LeBron with the burner jokes. 😂
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) June 2, 2018
One thing Vegas hasn’t considered yet: lowering the title odds of whatever team ends up with JR Smith.
The Spread takes aim at some of the recent sports betting gossip, hot takes, and news that made headlines across the Internet. This week, with the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup in full swing, and NFL futures taking shape, here’s a look at some line items:
- FPI Likes the Patriots Too: Vegas thinks the New England Patriots are a Super Bowl favorite and will win the most games again, and the FPI rankings concur. Given that the Bills may end up starting Josh Allen, their win total seems like 4 games too high, in our opinion.
- Golden Knights Not Minting Gold for Vegas: The reality of a Golden Knights Stanley Cup victory, and the hit it’ll put on Vegas sportsbooks, is becoming, erm, a reality. Even after a loss Wednesday evened the series with Washington at 1-1, the Knights and their dedicated minions are still close to even money to join the likes of long-suffering fan bases like the Cubs, Cavs, and Red Sox who all recently overcame decades of torturous bad luck to win a title.
- The Warriors Are Winning the Title: Speaking of the Cavs, they’re the biggest NBA finals underdog since 2002. And that’s with LeBron James, who is the best basketball player on the planet and probably a better QB than Josh Allen.
- What’s At Stake At Belmont Stakes: Only a Triple Crown. Justify is a 4-5 favorite to win the Belmont and secure the second Triple Crown since 2015.
- Tiger Not An Open Favorite: The fervor and craziness has died down since the Masters, where Tiger Woods was a favorite before Round 1. That honor goes to Jordan Spieth at +900 to win the U.S. Open. Tiger is still only a few behind him at a respectable +1,400.
- We Are the World (Cup): Most pundits agree that there are really only six teams with a shot to win the 2018 World Cup. Those six teams range from favorite Germany at 7-2 to our sneaky value pick of Belgium at 10-1.
Listen in: TheLines Podcast also hit on the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup this week. Is it even worth betting on the lopsided hoops series?
One completely and totally underreported story in yesterday’s historic Supreme Court sports betting decision is how this will all affect the lexicon and lingo of owners, coaches, and athletes.
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr wasted all of a few hours before throwing point spread talk into a press conference (the Warriors were a 1.5 point dog and won handily). Not that most players and coaches aren’t aware of if they’re favored or not, but it will certainly make for more interesting post-game interviews after back-door covering a line with a pointless last second 3-pointer. “You know DA, I hated that the Cavs were such heavy favorites so eff off to everyone who bet them, that’s why I drained the 3 at the end.”
Video of Kerr talking point spreads pic.twitter.com/y71dx50SHi
— Meltz (@MeltzVegas) 15 May 2018
Owners understand the issues and benefits
Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis went on CNBC to wax poetic on the benefits of the ruling, in particular calling out “underground” betting as being significantly larger than legal betting and how this can help the game’s integrity.
As TheLines already pointed out, Mark Cuban also brought up the importance of integrity and specifically how susceptible kids at, say, a small community college could be to fixing. As seen in Europe with lower ranked tennis players and soccer leagues, the less an athlete earns, the more at risk they can be to tampering.
But what about Al Michaels…
Hopefully, TV announcers will take a cue from Al Michaels and weave more spread-talk into their commentary.
Slogging through a Cleveland Browns vs. Buffalo Bills game can be brutal enough, but since betting makes everything more fun to watch, focusing on the line and over/under instead of the inevitable errant Josh Allen passes at least provides an extra angle to cover.
On a wet, muddy, sloppy track, Justify did what the previous five Kentucky Derby favorites have done and beat the field.
Justify also broke a 136-year drought by winning the Derby despite never once racing as a two-year-old.
That key bit of information won one lucky bettor a bundle.
A justified futures wager
First, one bettor put $500 on Justify at 300-1 in February at the Wynn. The bet was made by a respected horseman, and he was able to get the odds mostly because Justify hadn’t raced as a two year-old. The win produced a massive $150,000 haul.
— Bill Krackomberger (@BillKrackman) May 5, 2018
Striking it rich in Texas
Second and even more impressive, a woman from Austin placed an $18 Pick-5 at Retama Park in Texas that yielded a $1.2M score.
The lucky lady correctly predicted the winners of Churchill Downs Races 8-12, including a 40-1 long shot in race #10.
Despite the rain, a downpour of wagers
This year’s Derby was one of the wettest on record, yet 157,813 people still attended the race. Maybe to get in from the rain, or maybe because betting on the Derby is just fun, wagers this year were at all-time levels. From Churchill Downs directly:
Wagering from all-sources on the Kentucky Derby Day program totaled $225.7 million, an 8% increase over the 2017 total and previous record of $209.2 million. Wagering from all-sources on the Kentucky Derby race increased 8% to $149.9 million from the previous record of $139.2 million set last year.
When there’s a viable Triple Crown threat, wager volume tends to trend upward. We’ll track if that’s the case, as Justify is certainly viewed as a contender to do so. As of Monday, he’s listed at 3/2 to complete the Triple Crown.
There’s an interesting article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal this week discussing the potential impact of Christie v. NCAA on Nevada. If other states can legalize sports betting, will it hurt revenue in Nevada books?
In short: no.
Not even a little?
Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo doesn’t think so.
“I don’t think it will affect Nevada at all.”
That’s pretty blunt.
The win for all sportsbooks in Nevada last year was $248.8M. Split between various license holders, that’s (math … math … math) good but not hand-over-fist revenue.
Given declining gross gaming revenue in general, even incremental shrinkage isn’t a positive. But legalized sports betting is coming. From The Stars Group positioning itself as a player with the acquisition of Sky Bet to MGM CEO Jim Murren saying that he’s “very confident” that PASPA will be overturned, it’s just a matter of time.
Can it actually help revenue?
We’ve seen the analog with how a rising tide can raise all boats in the gambling world before: online poker.
The general fear in the early aughts was that the online poker boom would kill brick & mortar business (which says a lot, because poker rooms in Las Vegas in the late ‘90’s were as dead as the Dodo). The opposite happened. Poker room business boomed. The access to playing opened up the market. Expect the same impact with sportsbooks.
With legalized sports betting, more people have access. It also creates competition. Competition creates innovation. More people playing, more sportsbooks push innovative concepts to attract customers, and Las Vegas business booms.
We’ve seen it before, we’ll see it again.
The Stars Group, the parent company of online poker behemoth PokerStars, made a major move this week in acquiring Sky Bet. The deal, reported to be worth $4.7B in cash and stock, moves a sizable chess piece on the board of a very fluid sports betting landscape.
The deal will make the Stars Group the largest publicly-traded gaming company.
But is it a good move?
PokerStars has been flirting with entering the sports betting market going back to the glory days pre-2011. In those happier times, as the company was making $1M a day in rake, running a sportsbook was viewed as a muddying of the waters for potential legalized U.S. entry.
Post-Black Friday, online poker legalization has made a “snail’s pace” seem like a Usain Bolt sprint. Online poker is so aughts. It’s over. It’s done. It’s not coming back to the levels it ever was.
But with daily fantasy’s rise and popularity, assists from progressive sports league commissioners like Adam Silver pushing integrity fee-laden agendas, and the general proven scientific fact that betting on sports makes watching sports more enjoyable, sports betting legalization appears inevitable. It’s the new online poker, except with a larger customer base, mainstream support, and revenue potential.
With a potential PAPSA repeal on the Supreme Court front-burner, the time is now to position yourself for market entry. Stars did. It was a good move.
Let’s say PASPA isn’t repealed…
It’s still a great move.
Stars diversifies its revenue, increases its revenue in the sports betting sector, and increases its presence in regulated markets.
The U.S. sports betting market is the holy grail, but even if that ends up being years away, Stars still wins.
Having attended eight years’ worth of Chuck E. Cheese and Dave & Buster’s birthday parties, the trend of “wow these kid arcades sure are increasingly looking and feeling like slots” has been upward spike trending. It’s like if cigarette companies openly and aggressively marketed to children back in the day.
Oh, that really happened. Never mind.
Iowa is debating whether or not to let the aforementioned Dave & Buster’s set up shop in their state. A bill passed to allow it, but the concern is over prize limits awarded by these totally benign, not-gaming-like-at-all machines played by kids young and old.
Amusement concessions = gateway drugs?
The crux of the Dave & Buster’s debate centers on amusement concessions and if that constitutes an expansion of gambling. Amusement concessions are essentially the prizes you can redeem from tickets won at a machine. Iowa law prohibits concessions over $100, but D&B has high-value prizes like iPads, free buffets and show tickets to the original line-up of Kansas!, and gaming consoles that go up to $1,000 in value.
Sen. Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids and of no relation to “crisis actor” David Hogg, thinks these $950 amusement concessions are a “slippery slope,” stating if Iowa isn’t careful these types of establishments will be:
“…on every corner in every city and every town in this state. We need to think about this. This is not something that we should do.”
Wait, Iowa loves gambling
Regardless of if D&B is expanding gambling by offering amusement concessions, Iowa actually is legit trying to expand gambling with their sports betting bill.
Iowa just wants to give the people… give the people what they want. That should be part of their state slogan. It fits right in with their current “Fields of Opportunity.” Because nobody loses gambling, right?
Dominoes are falling into place, and key players are ditching clear conflicts of interest. On Thursday, MLB and the NBA announced the dropping of their respective equity stakes in FanDuel and DraftKings.
Showing their integrity
Both the NBA and MLB have lobbied for a cut of legalized sports betting action via integrity fees. They also have equity stakes in FanDuel and DraftKings, which at least have plans to potentially serve as betting platforms. MLB and the NBA getting a piece of all that action would, optics-wise, be as unacceptable as double-dipping your chip.
Both leagues do intend to keep their commercial partnerships alive, which again makes sense for all parties. Expect to see the NHL drop its position in DraftKings before all is said and done. As for FormulaOne and its recently minted equity position in PlayON, if a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it…
So sports betting is going to really happen in the U.S.?
All signs are pointing that way, yes.
Or at worst, all of the key players are positioning themselves for it to happen.
To get a true feel for the chances of U.S. sports betting legalization, look no further than, uh, a sportsbook. BetDSI has legalization as a favorite, offering the following prop:
Will the U.S. Supreme Court Reverse the Lower Court’s Decision in Christie v. NCAA, Which Would Allow States to Legalize Sports Betting?
- Yes (-145)
- No (+115)
On that note, PredictIt needs to get their collective shit together and offer some odds too. Seems up their alley. Dropping the ball, PredictIt.
New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski has bought a minority stake in Gronk, a horse competing in the 2018 Kentucky Derby.
Gronk tweeted the news out on Wednesday because he’s Gronk and that’s what Gronk does.
— Rob Gronkowski (@RobGronkowski) April 18, 2018
How the Gronks stack up
Gronk the horse is a bigger than Mine That Bird longshot right now, listed at 80/1 at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook. The horse qualified for the Kentucky Derby via the European Road to the Derby, winning the Burradon Stakes. Gronk’s odds are a far-cry from current Derby favorite, Justify, at 5/2.
Gronkowski the tight end was selected 42nd overall in the 2010 NFL Draft out of Arizona. His Patriots have significantly better odds to win next year’s Super Bowl than Gronk the horse does to win the Derby. The Pats are currently listed at +600 at various online and offline sportsbooks. Also listed at +600 is whether or not Dez Bryant will join the Patriots receiving corps.
The 2018 Kentucky Derby takes place on Cinco de Mayo.