Betting: NFL wagering ‘way ahead’ of last year’s pace

Jeff Haney

The impact of the resolution of the NFL’s labor dispute has reverberated through Las Vegas, alleviating a bottled-up demand for betting action among well-bankrolled “wise guys” and casual gamblers alike. “The appetite for football in this town is simply unbelievable,” veteran oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro says. “People love this freakin’ NFL.”

Vaccaro, spokesman for Lucky’s race and sports books, says wagering on the forthcoming NFL season is “way ahead” of the amount bet by this time last year. Business at the windows is exceeding last year’s pace in terms of the number of betting tickets issued, as well as total handle, an indication that tourists, local recreational players and high-rollers have all been inspired to back up their early NFL opinions with cash.


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“The ‘smart guys’ jumped in and took a few positions right away,” Vaccaro says. “But the overall ticket count is way up, too. As a bookmaker, you’ve got to love all this activity.”

A flurry of personnel moves throughout the NFL followed the conclusion of the lockout, with more than a few high-profile players changing teams via trades or free agency. “Any time you see that kind of activity, it absolutely does wonders for your future book,” Vaccaro says.

Separate deals involving a pair of quarterbacks, Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb, prompted movement in Week 1 point spreads. Almost immediately after Arizona acquired Kolb from Philadelphia, Lucky’s took two $3,000 bets on the Cards in their September 11 opener against Carolina. Arizona opened as a 3-point favorite and is now favored by 4.5.

“We took a bet at 3.5 and we took a bet at 4,” Vaccaro says. “Kolb may or may not be any good, but people realize he’s better than what they had last year.”

When Minnesota landed McNabb in a trade with the Washington Redskins, Lucky’s accepted a similarly sized wager on the Vikings plus 9.5 points in their opener at San Diego. Support for the Vikings has driven the line down to 8.5 points.

“We all expected they would get a deal done to end the lockout,” Vaccaro said. “Once it actually got done, you could really feel the anticipation in the air. People got off their seats, they got out of their homes and they came in to bet.”


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