With its current roster construction, in no way shape or form should the LA Lakers be third overall title favorites in the NBA this season.
But they are.
Is it just the LeBron Effect or is it regional bias?
ESPN calls this increased handle the “LeBron Effect.” The Lakers currently post between 5/1 and 8/1 title odds in Las Vegas, and they’ve received more bets than any other team.
A midseason Kawhi Leonard trade could certainly make the Lakers more of a true 5/1 shot, but that futures line itself is a longshot as of today.
According to Ed Salmons at the Westgate in Las Vegas, “True odds for Lakers winning with this team are probably 15/1.”
While the odds shift has a lot to do with LeBron, the Lakers have received a high handle volume before LeBron and will continue to after LeBron. The 5/1 odds reflect regional bias as well; Sin City has long been a Lakers town.
The same can be said teams on the East Coast, where William Hill reports more bets on the Boston Celtics than in Vegas.
For a more pronounced look at regional bias, take the soon-to-be Vegas Raiders. The Raiders Super Bowl odds are massively inflated at 18/1 at the Westgate as of last week. Offshore books have the Raiders at 30/1 to 35/1, which given their roster holes, contract issues with Khalil Mack, and disaster potential of Jon Gruden’s coaching return, seem a bit generous too.
To a lesser degree but still relevant in terms of regional bias, the Golden Knights are listed at 10/1 in Vegas to win the 2018-19 Stanley Cup and are around 12/1 offshore.
Sportsbooks limiting their liability via adjusted regional lines makes sense. The public willing to light their money on fire for these bets does not. But hey, Vegas isn’t building casinos if the public was always right.