Monday, March 14, 2011

Las Vegas College Betting Notes: Staggered Schedule Should Help Handle

By Micah Roberts

Kornegay says less players will get shut out
This years College Basketball tournament has the potential to set all-time highs in handle throughout Nevada sports books thanks to the new television contract which debuts this week with staggered start times. The deal between the NCAA, CBS Sports and Turner Sports now allows bettors more time to get to the windows which should in turn create a significant increase in volume.

Under the old scenario, bettors would play their group of games during what the start times dictated. If three games were going off within 10 minutes of each other, a popular betting strategy from regular bettors would be to play a two or three team parlay on those games and link those up in parlays with a few of the other 33 games starting later. Because most play with a limited bankroll, their allotment on straight bets may go to only one or two games during that stretch while they waiting to see if they won or not.

With the new staggered format, bettors will now be able to cash without missing opportunities on the next wave of games and roll some of that money over, or if it goes bad, know that they have to go to the ATM and get more cash because a decision is in. Either way, the bettor now has time to regroup or press the action that wasn’t always available in the past.

The true value to the sports books is hard to forecast without having seen it all unwind before, but Thursday and Friday’s action is expected to exceed what they did last year just because of a longer time frame for the public.

Jimmy Vaccaro
“I think it’s going to be good for our handle,“ said veteran Lucky’s Sports Book Director Jimmy Vaccaro. “We should see us get an increase of about 5% over last years handle. When all the games start at relatively the same time, many of the bettors miss out. Now they’ll all have plenty of time to get action on the next game.“

One of the biggest problems with games starting while others are ending so close together is just being able to make the bet on time as Las Vegas Hilton Super Book Executive Director Jay Kornegay explains.

“Even when some of those games would end in enough time for bettors to get down, a lot of them would get shut-out no matter how many windows we had open,“ Kornegay said. “Bettors like to cash immediately after games and then you have others who like to bet just before the game, so when you have both sides doing the both thing in a small window of opportunity, having some of them getting shut-out is inevitable. Hopefully the staggered schedule negates some of that.”

Most of the average Joe’s like to bet one game at a time -- or a wave of games in parlays -- seeing how their bankroll goes. Betting a 4 pm game at 9 am with their early plays is rarely seen. These bettors want immediate action and they want immediate cash when they win. It’s part of what makes the first weekend of action so exciting in a Las Vegas sports book. There’s an exhilarating rush of hustling through a crowd to get action in at the last minute, kind of like the frenzy that goes off at a race track with two minutes to post.

Because of the layers in betting opportunities, Coast Resorts Sports Book Director Bob Scucci certainly thinks handle will be up, but he isn’t necessarily sure about the win percentage being equally increased.

“This is far more advantageous for the player than us because they have more opportunities to re-group over the course of the day and come up with another game plan should they lose, whereas before they were forced to do a lot of their betting all at once,” Scucci said. “It’s kind of like the NFL on Sunday’s, but with many more levels, with parlays on each level generating more and more outstanding risk.”

On Sunday nights during the NFL season, even if the players have a mediocre day, no matter what a sports book does, it‘s hard to even out the liability because most of the extended risk is paying out 10, 20, or 40-to-1 odds on parlays. No matter how creative the bookmaker is, they can’t reduce that risk by much by taking straight bets paying 11-to-10 odds. Increasing a money-line on the late game to make it attractive for sharp bettors for large money is one way to help, but it still doesn’t come close to leveling off what some of the payouts are.

While handle alone on Thursday and Friday look to exceed anything done in the past, the staggered schedule on Saturday and Sunday is still up for debate. On each of these days, half the games will start after 3 pm making the annual routine altered a bit for many Las Vegas visitors. Whether it’s show or dinner reservations, there are a lot of other variables that come into play for making the late Saturday game not as attractive in the past.

Most guests check out Sunday afternoon and either drive home to California or have to catch a flight meaning that there’s a chance several of these players on the strip will be leaving before the games are over. On a normal Sunday in the second round the games would be over by 4 pm. This year, four games will be going or will have yet to begun by that time.

It’s likely that the rise in handle from Thursday and Friday will outweigh any decrease from Saturday or Sunday’s games that may occur and Vaccaro’s estimate of a 5% increase will be right on the money.

No More Yelling at the Sports Books
Another aspect of the new TV deal is that the sports book staff is likely to take less abuse from a crowd that, lets just say is usually a bit intoxicated after two hours of watching the game. The number one abuse taken by the staff is always about games being taken of the air by the network.

“We’ll have a group watching their game where the spread may be 18-points and the national CBS feed thinks a 20-point game with five minutes to go isn’t competitive and then switches it to another game we already had the feed on,“ says Kornegay, “These fans start yelling like an angry mob at us as if we intentionally changed the game, not knowing that we can’t control what the network does.”

With four different networks going at the same time on Thursday and Friday, much of the past obscenities thrown at the staff should be at a minimum this year. With the ability to get more bets in with less shut-outs, this could be the best handle Nevada has ever seen for the tournament. if we see some angry drinkers yelling and screaming, it will likely now only be because of picking the wrong side.

Contests All Over Las Vegas
To show just how meaningful the NCAA Tournament is to Las Vegas sports books, all you have to do is look at all the contests being offered at several of the casinos. A sports book marketing budget generally is spread across the year with about 80% going towards the football season and the other 20% spent for March Madness. The tournament grabs bettors attention like only football can and in order for most books to funnel the majority of the bets their way, contests with all entries fees returned or huge overlays are the way to do it.

Station Casinos is once again going with their popular Last man Standing contest that paid out over $41,000 to one winner last season. This year Stations is guaranteeing $40,000 no matter how many entries are taken, up from the $25,000 guaranteed last year. The entry fee is $25 and if you buy four, you get one free. All you have to do is pick one winner a day against the spread. If you your entry is the last one standing, you win.

Station sports books are also enticing guests with value for the month by offering $1 Budweisers and hot dogs on days that the tournament is being played. The combination of getting that value as well as watching the games in any of their beautiful books make it a hard deal to pass up.

Another local favorite, Coast Resorts, has a deal that is hard to pass up as well. In addition to having a great viewing experience for all the games, they are offering a free contest that pays one winner $10,000 at the end of the contest. 100 contestants will get paid in this no points contest that pays a total of $16,000. The best thing about the contest is that is done out of their convenient kiosk. The only thing that is required is that you have one of their players card. It’s free money out there waiting to be taken. All you have to do is get there and pick some winners.

If playing at the contest at the Orleans, they also have a deal that could win you more cash just by making your bets there. Every $50 bet gets you a drawing ticket to win up to $10,000 which they’ll be doing the first four days of the tournament. If your going to make bets, you might as well enter this contest and get your chance at free money.

Lucky’s sports books will be running their contest for the second consecutive year with $6,000 guaranteed for a $10 entry fee. There is also a bonus of $1,000 for whoever has the best record during the first four days of the tournament.

Leroy’s sports books have their “Three ‘n Out” contest running again for a $25 entry fee with all entry fees returned as prize money. The only way you can lose is to lose three times during the tournament picking one game a day against the spread. The deadline for entry is March 5th at 5 pm.

The Las Vegas Hilton Super Book is another great place to watch the games in their Hoops Central showroom. The best thing about it is that your in an environment kind of like being at an arena with all the ooh’s and ahh’s on every play that help give the tournament a life of it‘s own.

Hilton Updated Odds
The updated Tournament odds at the Hilton have top seed Ohio State as the 7/2 favorites followed by Duke 9/2, Kansas 5/1, and Pittsburgh 8/1. Aftert those four, the next in line is San Diego State at 12/1 and North Carolina at 15/1. After doing my brackets early on, I kept having Michigan State making it to the Final Four and they are currently 100/1. If anyone believes in UNLV getting past Illinois, and then Kansas in the next round, the Rebels are 200/1 to win it all.

Along with Michigan State, I have Ohio State, Kansas and San Diego State making the Final Four in my own bracket. It's not exactly going out on a limb, but I do have Utah State, Gonzaga and Richmond all making the sweet 16.

Jimmy Vaccaro on How Important The Tournament Is
“You only get a few cracks at big weeks a year and these next few weeks will be the last until football starts with a small spike of activity late in the NBA playoffs. After not doing as well as we would have liked in the Super Bowl, it’s very important for us to make the most of this month.

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