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therock
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Tolerating Payne: Bad start for sportsbooks could be ending

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On 10/27/2011 12:56 AM in NCAA Football
I have awful news to report – Nevada sportsbooks are off to the worst start to a football season in recent memory.

As Nelson Muntz once said, “Ha ha.”

Official September revenue numbers from the Nevada Gaming Control Board won’t be available until early next month, but the figures are expected to be New Mexico ugly.

Football revenue already was hurt by a shortened preseason. According to Gaming Control Board records, Nevada sportsbooks’ win total on football in August was down 63.38 percent compared to last August.

September results are expected to be worse.

“It definitely won’t go down on record as being one our best,” Todd Fuhrman, senior race and sportsbook analyst for Caesars in Las Vegas, said with a begrudging chuckle. “From recent memory, it’s about as bad a month as we’ve had.”

October didn’t start much better. The three most impressive college football teams to the eyes—Alabama, LSU and Stanford—are a combined 20-2 against the spread. Teams ranked in the AP Top 10 have covered the spread 65.47 percent of the time through eight weeks. It’s been a recipe for disaster for books.

“It’s pretty clear that the Top 10 teams have opened a sizable gap between the next 40 teams,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, sportsbook director at Lucky’s, who’s seen plenty of slow starts during his 30-plus-year Vegas bookmaking career. “And when something works, people are going come back and play on the same teams. When that happens, we’re going to lose. But when we get our butts handed to us, we’re not going to cry about it. And when we win, we’re not going to talk about it either. It’ll all even out in the end, kid.

“Thirty years ago, if I went through a bad run at the Barbary Coast, only the five people behind the counter would know,” Vaccaro said. “Now, because of the internet and media coverage, five million people know.”

While Vaccaro has seen plenty of bad streaks, he does admit that this year’s first two months have been exceptionally rough.

This past Saturday could be a turning point, though. Saturday was the best of the season so far for the Wynn, Caesars and Lucky’s, with Michigan State’s straight-up win over Wisconsin delivering the one of the biggest wins of the year for some books.

“Biggest win for us was Michigan State not only covering the number but getting there outright, because it took care of all the moneyline parlays and teasers that were out there on that game,” Fuhrman said.

Saturday also was Johnny Avello’s best of the season at the Las Vegas Wynn. Southern Cal’s beatdown of Notre Dame was a big winner for Avello, as was Michigan State.

“Unfortunately, we gave it all back on Sunday,” lamented Avello, a long-time Vegas oddsmaker.

It’s safe to say that books made a killing on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ upset of the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night, though.

The rough start isn’t exclusive to Vegas, either.

“It’s not just Vegas, it’s everyone I've talked to. Myself included,” a local bookie who works out of Pennsylvania told us in an email. “It looked like the perfect storm coming into the year...Clientele is up due to online shops not serving the US market and my average weekly handle is great, only trouble....Favorites are rolling.

“September into October were some rough weeks for me,” he added. “I’m waiting for things to even out and these numbers to start regressing to the mean. But week after week I found myself in the red. It seemed like bettors were so confident in their picks and rightfully so; the big public side just kept coming in. A system of picking favorites and overs made Joe Public look sharp.”

EARLY ACTION ON LSU-ALABAMA

An interesting betting market has emerged on what is unquestionably the game of the year in college football.

Way back on June 10, the Golden Nugget opened Alabama as a 9-point favorite for its Nov. 5 home date against LSU. On July 29th, the Las Vegas Hilton posted the Crimson Tide as 5-point favorites over LSU.

Now, months later, the line could be found anywhere from Alabama -5 in Nevada to -3.5 offshore. Most offshore shops, however, were dealing the Crimson Tide -4.5 as of Tuesday.

The game is attracting an unusual amount of action especially since it’s still two weeks away. In fact, early in the week, Fuhrman said, the Tigers-Tide showdown was generating more betting interest than almost all of this week’s games.

Caesars was the first to post a total on the big game, which opened a 40. In a real shocker, the public jumped on the over early, pushing the line up to 41. The total was up to 42 offshore.
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