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January 30, 2007

Super Bowl is Played in Vegas

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joe Duffy @ 3:19 PM

He reaches for his new set of specs, just another indication that Kenny White’s eyes spend way too much time staring at these dizzying digits.
”I just started wearing glasses three or four days ago,” said White, the CEO of Las Vegas Sports Consultants. “My eyes are shot from all these numbers.”
White digs through a stack of papers within this organized mess he calls his desk. He’s in search of his team power ratings, which he develops through statistical analysis to help him devise the betting lines for nearly every national sporting event.
Two unsuspecting tutorials surface near the pile as he searches: there’s a book titled Sports Betting 101 and a cassette tape called How to be a Winning Sports Bettor. Indeed, it is an odd sight, like finding sheet music for Chopsticks near Mozart’s piano.
White knows numbers. He knows them better than bettors, which is why 90 percent of the sports books in Las Vegas consult him before they accept a single wager. White also knows this: Only one number matters more than all of the rest.
It’s the Super Bowl betting line. And it’s Indianapolis by seven.
”Absolutely,” said White, who devised the line with a group of oddsmakers in this office after last week’s conference championship games. “It’s extremely important.
“It’s the most important line of the year, simply because of the volume that will be wagered on this game.”
That, of course, is the reason White has all of these binders full of depth charts and injury reports and statistics. It’s why he still immerses himself in nearly every book written about sports betting.
A blunt reminder of his job’s significance can be found simply by looking out one of the windows in this unsuspecting office building.
On the other side of the airport runway, about a mile from this dark corner of the glittery city, is the Las Vegas Strip. By the time Sunday’s game kicks off, more than $80 million will have been wagered on the Super Bowl at the casinos on The Strip.
”It’s almost like a national holiday,” said Chris Andrews, who runs Leroy’s Race & Sports Book inside the same building as the Las Vegas Sports Consultants. “A lot of people gear their vacation around coming out here for the Super Bowl.”
Even as online overseas gambling sites have surged in recent years, the amount of money wagered on the Super Bowl has continued to increase. Each of the past two Super Bowls has broken the previous record for the amount of money wagered on the big game, White said. Along with his staff, White plays a major role in who ends up with the loot.
But for now, on this particular Thursday in mid-January, there isn’t much sports action within any of those casinos. At the MGM Grand, the area where sports bets are placed (called the sports book) isn’t bustling as it will be this weekend.
Only a few of the 85 seats are filled, and guests have the option to watch 49 TV screens. On this afternoon, there are 15 sports events being shown.
On Sunday, however, there only will be one: the Super Bowl. Every sports book in town will be packed with people tuning into that same money-pulling game.
”It’s just a mass of people,” said Robert Walker, the director of the sports book at the Mirage. “It will be wall-to-wall, people sitting on the floors in the front. And it’s like that at every book in town. It’s like those two minutes of the Kentucky Derby. That’s how the whole first quarter of the Super Bowl is. It’s crazy.”
Walker, like White, also faces some serious stress when it comes to the betting line on Super Bowl Sunday. Most of Walker’s worries begin to build on the actual day of the game, unlike White, who faces his tough tasks weeks before when he sets the line.
`RULE OF 10′
Walker, whose sports book at the Mirage actually serves as the hub for the sports books at Mandalay Bay, the Bellagio and MGM Grand, will watch as weeks of hype culminate within those casinos. That’s when his ”rule of 10” kicks into gear.
”Everybody bets 10 times as much as they normally do,” Walker said.
And in some cases, those bets can creep excessively high. In 2002, Walker accepted the highest bet ever taken inside a Las Vegas sports book wagered on a Super Bowl. The wager of $4.6 million, which first had to be approved by Bellagio president Bill McBeath, was for the St. Louis Rams to beat the New England Patriots with the money line.
”The Patriots won outright, thank God,” Walker said. “Otherwise, you’d be talking to somebody different right now.”
Still, even when considering the significance and magnitude of the bet, Walker said the Super Bowl has an intriguing way of bringing people from all different classes of society together.
Whether the bettor is making big wagers or small, the goal is the same: to win.
”That’s the one thing about that game that’s unique,” Walker said. “You might have a guy that bet $100 sitting next to a guy that bet $50,000 or more, and they’re still cheering the same way. The camaraderie is unique between those two people who have the same bet, no matter how much they put down.”
In Miami, the score of the game will dictate the winners and losers. In Las Vegas, however, it will be the outcome of the spread that dictates the mood of many. So, unless the Colts win by more than seven points, it won’t matter whether they hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
If the Colts fail to beat the spread, they still would be Las Vegas’ biggest losers this weekend — which is precisely what makes oddsmakers like White so important.
”Ideally, if seven is the number, we would open at seven and stay there [rather than moving the line because too many bettors are picking one side],” Andrews said. “That would be great. We also want the game to end nowhere near the number so we don’t have to refund anybody. That would be fantastic.”
IT’S UNPREDICTABLE
Problem is, it doesn’t always work out that way. Over the years, oddsmakers and sports books have faced their share of devastating days — few as terrible for the industry as the 1979 Super Bowl.
Although White is quick to note he wasn’t around for this one, the line for the Super Bowl matchup between the Steelers and the Cowboys was initially set at 3 ½ with the Steelers as the favorites. But because of lopsided betting, the line moved to 4 ½ by the day of the game.
The final score? The Steelers won by four points, 35-31.
”That was one of the biggest nightmares this state has seen,” White said. “Because if the number lands in the middle like that, you end up paying both sides.”
Under his watch, though, White said the Las Vegas Sports Consultants has provided a line that has yielded winning results for casinos — and losing results for the fans — each year.
So pick your team, and decide what you will about White’s decision to give the Colts a seven-point edge. You also might want to keep in mind this one little piece of advice from Bears defensive end Alex Brown about that ever-important Las Vegas line:
“Those people in Vegas don’t play football.”
That’s true. White’s profession involves something far different. In the end, however, Brown and White are after the same goal: They both want to win.
”Crunching numbers,” White said. “That’s all it is. I’ll be in here all day long, just constantly trying to make sure we’re picking the perfect number.”
Source: Miami Herald

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