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Sports news with a Vegas perspective.

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    09/07/2011 10:47 PM
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    Yesterday - 10:42 AM

Super Bowl Betting has Las Vegas Bookmakers Worried

The only thing bookmakers hate more than having to return all the Super Bowl betting is having to return double the money bet. This year’s Super Bowl has set up as a potential bonanza for sports bettors, and a potential disaster for the bookmakers.

Las Vegas bookmakers opened Super Bowl betting this year with New England favored by 3½ points.  That didn’t last long, as bettors pounced so hard on the Giants +3½ that the bookmakers were forced to lower the line to try to attract an equal amount of action to the Patriots.  Ideally, bookmakers want to get an even amount of money bet on both sides of the game, and simply let the losers pay the winners while the bookmaker collects his 4.5% commission.  The betting line in Las Vegas currently varies from New England –3 at the Hilton to New England –2½ at MGM. 

Moving the betting line around the number “3”, however, is a problem for the bookmakers.  Due to the way that football is scored, the most common result of an NFL game is a final score in which the favorite wins by exactly 3 points.

Statistically, when a team is favored by between 2 ½ and 3 ½ points, it will win by exactly 3 points approximately 11% of the time.  That means that if the bookmaker posts a line of New England –3, he has an 11% chance that he will be required to return all the money bet due to the tie based on the spread.  If he posts a line of –3 ½ he will be inundated with bets on the Giants +3 ½.  If he posts a line of –2 ½ he will be buried in New England action. 

The worst situation is for the bookmaker to start with a line of  3 ½ and move down to a line of 2 ½.  If New England wins by 3, the bookmaker will lose both sides.  Anyone who bet the Giants +3 ½ and Patriots –2 ½ has an 11% chance of winning double.  For a risk of just the bookmaker’s $9 commission, a bettor placing $100 on each side can potentially win $200.  That’s a 1 in 10 chance of winning 20-1. -- a truly great bet. 

To make matters worse for the bookmakers, the two teams are very evenly matched.  New England has averaged 39 more offensive yards per game than the Giants, but New York has allowed 34 fewer yards per game on defense.  Even though the Giants won by 4 at New England, it was the Patriots that had an 82-yard advantage at the end.  Those 82 yards, however, are exactly equal to the Patriots’ home advantage. .   

In a seesaw game, the Giants won by scoring the final touchdown with 15 seconds left.  Expect another seesaw game with the team that scores last winning.  Statistics say that the final deciding score will result in a 3-point win.  If the Patriots score last, the bookmakers are in trouble.  

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