Friday, December 24, 2010

All Is Calm In Las Vegas Sports Books The Night Before Christmas; Light Action

By Micah Roberts

Twas the night before Christmas and all was quiet in Las Vegas, especially in the sports books. It’s a different clientele than normally seen in Sin City throughout the year during the holiday weekend as the regular crowd stays home with family and friends giving way to a majority of folks who aren’t Christians. It’s not to say that everyone visiting doesn’t believe in Christmas, but as I walked through the Aria casino Thursday night it was apparent that Las Vegas had a different vibe like rarely seen all year. There was a calm, relaxed vibe that made me feel like I was in an Indonesia mega resort with all kinds of rules.

This may explain why action in the sports books have been so slow this week. From locals standpoint, many of the regulars that bet every week are being a little more frugal with their funds as they finalize their shopping. Lucky’s Race and Sports Book Director Jimmy Vaccaro see’s his business slow, but not as bad as it used to be in town.

“In the late 70’s and early 80’s, we used have reduced hours considerably during the holiday season because there was no one in town other than the small base of locals. The consumer traveler didn’t go to Vegas, but now we see people from all over visiting and also have a much younger crowd here which was never the case before.”

Vaccaro also feels this time of year generally doesn’t produce the type of meaningful games that get people through the doors to bet.

“The NFL games have been great with the new scheduling, but we’re likely to see most of that action on Sunday,” Vaccaro explained. “The early bowl games haven’t been attractive to bettors where they say they have to go bet it on their way home like they might have earlier in the season. Other than the Boise State game, just because it was played here, the other games haven’t inspired regular bettors to play and watch. Even some of the college basketball betting has been a little slow and I think that’s just because the bettors are wore out after a long season.”

Busy malls are the worst part of Christmas
The Holiday season plays into that as well. I don’t remember how it was when I lived in other places, but it’s a dreadful thought just thinking about trying to shop close to Christmas in Vegas. At the same time, when it’s a week or two before, I always have the feeling that I can do it tomorrow. When tomorrow finally comes, which is usually a day or two before Christmas, I’m beat up, germed out and worn out after bustling through the impatient crowds. The last thing I feel like doing is stopping anywhere but my home.

On NFL Sunday, the action will surely come. The kids will all still be enamored with their gifts, the wife may dare to go shopping some more because of the deals, but for Dad, all he wants for Christmas is to relax and enjoy the games, and the games this week are pretty attractive.

It’s almost like the playoffs because the new scheduling format. Despite no serious action on the Thursday night game at Pittsburgh, everyone will be back in full force with things returning to normal Sunday, following Christmas, with most of their attention focused back into the sports world.

We have three divisional rematches this week with nearly every other game having playoff implications. 19 teams are still in the hunt and other than the Lions-Dolphins and Texans-Broncos, every game means something.

"3" has been the magic number in the NFL this season
Six of the games are hovering around the key number of “3” and the slightest of line movements on the week have come from those games. The value of “3” hasn’t been as important as it has this year for quite a few years. Through 15 weeks of action, there have been 43 games land on “3” meaning that 19.1% of all games this year have landed on “3”. Last season there were only 41 games (15.4%) for all 17 weeks. In 2008, only 28 games landed (10.5%). 2007 had 43 games land (16.1%) and in in 2006, there were 46 games (17.2%).

Now, those figures are for all games with all spreads and don’t reflect the actual games that were on or around “3”, but it gives a little clarity on why the sports books may use money lines so much attached to 2 ½, 3 and 3 ½, not wanting to get middled on such a key number.

Bucs -6 looks like the bet bet of the week
The one game that has stood still for the entire week that looks to be maybe the most attractive is the Buccaneers at home as a 6-point favorite against the Seahawks. This is essentially a playoff game with Tampa Bay hanging on by a thread and Seattle fighting for the NFC West division crown. The Bucs have to win this game while the Seahawks could actually lose and still have a shot at the division with their week 17 matchup against the Rams.

Even though Tampa Bay has eight wins, they haven’t beat a team with a winning record. Not only does Seattle have a losing record, but they’ll be trying to win on the road for one of the longest road trips anyone in the NFL could make as they travel from the northeast corner of the country to the very bottom of the southeast. West coast teams traveling east is rarely a good bet, especially from a Seattle team that routinely gets whacked by double digits.

The main culprit for each team’s success and demise has been turnovers. Seattle gives the ball up frequently and is third worst in the league with at a -9 ratio while the Bucs saving grace this season has been being able to hold onto the ball at +8. In Matt Hasselbeck’s last four starts, he has combined to throw 10 interceptions. The Seahawks only win over that stretch was beating the lowly Panthers in Seattle.

I’ll take the Buccaneers to win 27-13.

With two weeks to go the in the Las Vegas Review-Journal NFL Challenge, I am 40-34-1, 2 ½ games behind the leader, Las Vegas Hilton Super Book Executive Director Jay Kornegay, who is 40-34-1. The contest is based on the Hilton’s Super Contest format and lines battled out between a small group of Las Vegas handicappers, writers and Sports Book Directors.

LVRJ NFL Challenge Standings through Week 15

Here are my week 16 Selections:
49ers +2 ½ @ St. Louis
Bears -1 vs. Jets
Buccaneers -6 vs. Seahawks
Patriots -7 ½ @ Buffalo
Texans -2 ½ @ Denver

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