How Sportsbooks Are Reacting To College Football Scheduling Uncertainty

Written By Marco Cerino on August 21, 2020 - Last Updated on November 12, 2020
college football sports betting odds futures national championship title 2020

The decision by two of the “Power 5” college football conferences to not play this fall has caused national championship futures prices to disappear across most major sportsbooks.

Books like FanDuel, DraftKings, and PointsBet are currently taking wagers for the winners of the three conferences in the Power 5 committed to play currently (SEC, ACC, Big 12). Others like FoxBet and BetMGM currently have no bets – single game or otherwise – for the NCAA football season.

Despite the Big 12 and ACC still having some early September tentatively scheduled, no books are currently offering lines for games before SEC conference play starts Sept. 26.

In addition to the loss of two major conferences, most teams have canceled their non-conference slate, thus taking away multiple weekends in September to wager and get a sense of who’s got the right stuff this season. It also hurts the oddsmakers by not giving them enough data or trends to follow to correctly price future games. Sometimes that’s a boon for the players, other times it’s the blind leading the blind.

For those who made preseason wagers on the national title or teams like Penn State or Southern Cal to win their conferences, you can look toward an old horse racing term: HOLD ALL TICKETS. Neither the states nor any specific brands have offered guidance on what to expect with those markets. One spokesperson for FanDuel did tell TheLines, “We are working with customers to do what is best for them.”

Dip in handle expected in late fall

Without the early-season games, this also creates an expected drop in handle for next month. The football season represents the boom time for states with legalized sports betting. Look at the numbers from each state from each month. Those last four months of the calendar year are substantially higher because of the interest pro and college football draw. Yes, the move of the NHL and NBA playoffs can cushion some of the blow –  but those sports taking off most of October and all of November might hurt those months.

Of course, college football is more than just the big schools on TV like Michigan and Arizona. For those fans of the Group of Five, they’re missing games with the Mid-American Conference and Mountain West postponing their seasons. While the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, and the Sun Belt look to move forward, no book has futures prices up for those schools.

Retail sportsbooks will continue to hurt

Most states that offer sports betting will see one D-I program not compete this year due to the postponements. Two that stand out are sports betting in Michigan and Colorado, both of which just opened their markets earlier this year to great fanfare. While most betting happens over the internet, Saturdays are still big days for retail sportsbooks – with fans gathering to watch games and string together that magic card. Limitations on occupancy at casinos and tracks only compound the financial hurt that will be felt this fall.

While frustrating to some, the slower rollout of lines and futures makes sense to an industry trying to recover from a disastrous spring without major competition to offer. As the calendar turns to September, more lines should come out once games get solidified.

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