Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Las Vegas Sports Books Bracing Themselves For Busy First Week of NFL Football

By Micah Roberts

Week 1 of the NFL is finally here and there might be no place happier than Las Vegas because of the tremendous spike in business drawn from the allure of betting the games or playing contests. Traffic coming through the doors by locals is fluid throughout the week as they check their standings, grab their sheets, make a few early bets and even wander off to other areas of the casino trying their hand at black jack, poker and the machines. Visitors from out of state flow through Las Vegas with their buddies for a party atmosphere that they just can’t recreate at home, or their local bar, while watching the games.

To prepare for the intense rush of what’s about to happen this week, the Las Vegas Sportsbook Directors have run through their annual check lists to ensure their operation goes as smooth as ever. Plenty of staffing to accommodate the type of crowds not seen since last football season, check! The book is scrubbed clean with all the TV’s in perfect operation, check! All the betting machines are fully operational and checked by the company leased from, check! The entire staff is versed in departmental policy and procedure, check! All set, ready, hut-hut!

This is the book’s time to shine and contribute to the casino operations cash flow like no other juncture of the year. The book during football season is the one variable of a casino that can actually help a casino hit their budgeted numbers exceeding expectations. In this economic climate, many casinos don’t come close to hitting their monthly or quarterly budgets as many heads of the companies tell their finance people to put lofty numbers on the green sheets in an attempt inspire and make them work harder to achieve the goal, but ultimately they come up short which in turn affects each department head’s bonus.

With football around, the possibilities of hitting budget are there and every Director from other departments all know it and want to root intensely for what the house needs on game day. All it takes is a couple big weekends. In order to get those big weekends, the sports books need parity in the league where there are no sacrificial lambs that the public can keep betting against -- no matter what the number is -- and keep cashing tickets.

Last season we had the dirty half-dozen that the public kept betting against all season where the books had to rapidly increase point-spreads, despite what the ratings said, in an attempt to create action on the ugly sides. The Rams, Buccaneers, Browns, Chiefs, Raiders and Lions all contributed to a rough start out of the gate for the books and all culminated in the perfect storm of Week 7, the sports books’ biggest losing day ever.

Despite finding sharp money on the inflated lines of those ugly teams throughout the weeks, nothing could stop the massive public pile-up betting against those teams. And when the public bets, the majority of the action is parlays paying 6/1, 10/1, 20/1 and 40/1 odds; numbers that can’t be recouped no matter how much straight action comes in from the sharps on the other side.

“Last year was the biggest disparity I have ever seen in the NFL from the have’s and the have-nots,” said Boyd Gaming’s Race and Sports Director Bob Scucci, “What we saw in the first seven weeks last year was some really, really good teams and really bad teams with not a lot in between and we had to do some major adjusting in the numbers along the way to compensate for each side.”

Things ultimately evened out over the course of the year, but it was still a disappointing season for most just because of September and October’s win being so far below expectations.

This season looks to be a little different where it looks that at five of those ugly teams from last year are improved. When saying improved, it doesn’t mean they are close to playoff contention but rather they are close to staying where their true rating is and should be able to be competitive within the point spread.

“From what I have seen so far, it doesn’t appear that a group of teams like we saw last year will be as bad and those teams that the public love such as the Patriots don’t look to be as good, “ said Scucci, “Even the Saints aren’t getting the type of attention that a Super Bowl winner usually gets.”

While it’s only preseason to go by, the Rams looked much more improved with Sam Bradford even though as a rookie, he’s sure to have kitchen sinks thrown at him by opposing team’s defenses. They can’t possibly be any worse than the 1-15 team they were last year and Bradford still has one of the best running backs in the league with Steven Jackson. Bradford will struggle at times, no doubt about it, but he has the look of being more like the successful rookie’s of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco than Tim Couch or Jamarcus Russell.

The Buccaneers have a much improved defense and really came together down the stretch last season playing competitive football. The question out of the gate rests with their quarterbacks. Josh Freeman didn’t get a lot of pre-season play but he’s got some nice weapons to work with down field that should create more big plays than we saw last year.

The Browns had a good preseason in terms of just looking cohesive on offense lead by veteran Jake Delhomme. They were one of the worst offensive teams over the first 10 weeks of the season, but that should change this season as the Browns will score some points and not put their defense in such a position that they are always down.

The Raiders have the fortune of finally winning their battle with owner Al Davis who demanded the starting of Russell each week. Both Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski can move the ball and make the simple passes Russell couldn’t. They also show up for film sessions and can read defenses. They already have a very good defense and should be very competitive in most games.

The Lions have all the looks of being drastically improved, both offensively and defensively. Matt Stafford looks likes he’s going to evolve into one of the NFL’s best and the addition of Jahvid Best could really help make some big plays. The defensive line is about as good as any in the league which should make it a tough for opposing quarterbacks any time facing Detroit.

The one team that doesn’t look to be changed too much is the Chiefs. They still have a floundering Matt Cassel at quarterback and much of the same team on defense that allowed 34 points or more in six games last season. They could be the one team picked on all year by bettors that get there regularly. There‘s always got to be one each year, just hopefully for the sportsbook’s sake, not six teams like last season.

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