Not that it means anything to rabid fans that are true to their teams no matter what, but the Kentucky Wildcats are favored by 2.5 points to beat the Connecticut Huskies and win the NCAA basketball championship Monday night in Dallas. If you’d like to bet Kentucky straight up, without having to give up the points, the money-line in Las Vegas is $1.50, which means that you’ll have to bet $150 to win $100 on the Wildcats.
Jimmy Vaccaro, line-maker for the South Pointe Hotel, Casino & Spa in Las Vegas, says both teams have been bet quite evenly since the line was put up on Saturday night, although betting has been a little heavy on “over” the total of 136. “This is not going to be a huge decision either way” says Vaccaro, meaning that the bookmakers put up a strong line on Saturday to begin with. In other words, the Nevada Sports Books will win money no matter who wins Monday night.
As far as “future bets” are concerned, Vaccaro says “Here at the South Pointe we’re in excellent shape no matter who wins as far as the future book.” Future bets are odds on each team going all the way to win the tournament before the tip-off of the first game. A future bet on Kentucky was as high as 50-1, while UConn was up to 100-1 to win the finals of the NCAA basketball tournament depending on where you made your wager. Vaccaro says with the two most heavily-bet teams in “futures” wagering, Michigan State and Wichita State, out of the running, none of the sports books are in position to be hurt too badly. The oddsmaker went on to say that “Kentucky would have been lower odds and picked up more action, but remember they were pretty flat toward the middle and the end of the season. Connecticut, nobody really gave them much of a chance, including me.” Vaccaro went on to point out the Huskies “were down three points to St. Josephs with a minute to go and St. Joes had the ball.” UConn went on to win the game in overtime, and Vaccaro says that illustrates the topsy-turvy nature of the NCAA tournament.
In Nevada wagering, there is often times a side where the “smart” money goes (wagers from professional handicappers) and a side on which the public bets, but Vaccaro says he sees no such delineation for Monday’s game. He says when you reach games of this magnitude, where the betting handle is as large as it is, “the smart money is there, it does show, but it does not affect the point spread nearly as much as it would a small-college football game.”
How big will the 2014 March Madness be for Nevada Sports Books? Vaccaro puts it this way: “The Super Bowl usually mirrors, to some degree, what we’re going to do with March Madness, and as we all know we did $20 million more for the Super Bowl handle this year than we ever, ever did before.” He said he expects,” when all the beans are counted, they will have done more on this year’s tournament than they have ever done.” When it comes to yearly events and money-makers in Nevada, Vaccaro says the NCAA Tournament ranks right up there: “There’s no doubt in my mind that New Year’s weekend, Super Bowl weekend, and the first four days of March Madness are all very close” in revenue for the casinos.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky