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Las Vegas Took A Historic Beating This NFL Season

  • Jordan Rabinowitz

Do you know what happens to the Vegas books when favored teams go on to win their games and cover their spreads? They get shellacked. And thanks to a fairly chalk NFL season, where more teams will make repeat playoff appearances (eight) than in any other year of the current format, they got positively manhandled.

Since this was a historic year for teams that were favored at the start of the season, it was an equally historic year for the bookies who had to pay out the dough for people who bet on them. What happened was, once teams like the Falcons, Broncos, Patriots, and Packers all started hitting their midseason stride, people kept betting on them to cover the spread, and they kept on covering. Bettors started to parlay their bets too, so $20 throws were turning into $1,000 payouts.

What’s the secret? Well, bookies have indicated that basically, it’s because people aren’t dumb anymore. Or at the very least, they have more accessibility to resources that will help them make better educated decisions that they didn’t have 10 years ago. But take it from them, not me: It was very, very bad.

“We know the general public now has tremendous sources of information, that the regular player is sharper than the guy 10 years ago, but we’ve never seen a streak like this before,” said Jay Kornegay, a 25-year veteran who heads the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino’s 30,000-square-foot Race and Sports book.

Vegas took its biggest hit Week 9, when underdogs went just 2-10 against the spread. To you and me, this really doesn’t seem like a big deal. I mean, none of it seems like a big deal. But on November 4, the situation was dire in Vegas, so much so that MGM had to dip into an emergency stash to pay out bettors. It was actually like being strapped on a train to hell.

Bettors adore backing the “over” and “favored” teams such as the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers. As that Nov. 4 perfect storm hit, MGM Resorts, the city’s largest sports bookmaker, was forced to summon emergency stashes of cash to pay off its losses.

“It’s like you’re a passenger trapped on a train to hell,” said Jay Rood, whose 12 MGM Resorts’ sports books at properties including Mandalay Bay, Mirage and Bellagio took a seven-figure hit that day.

The crux of the issue when favored teams keep covering spreads are, naturally, the spreads themselves. Oddsmakers are trying not to muss it up too badly for the playoffs, but still fear the kind of payouts bettors will accrue if the Seahawks or Colts somehow win the Super Bowl.

Their odds at the beginning of the season were 75-1 and 200-1, respectively. At this point, it’s a damned if they do, damned if they don’t situation.

[LA Times, Getty Images]