NFL drama and the gambler’s game

How are Nevada sports books doing?

Betting on football isn’t always a picnic for Nevada sports books either.

Every so often during the football season, a quotation from a Nevada sports book manager will show up in the media intending to describe how the book fared during a weekend of gambling action. It usually goes something like this: “Well, the house did very well on Saturday, but the bettors killed us on Sunday.” Alas, the actual meaning of those comments is the same as Michael Corleone’s final offer to Senator Pat Geary. Nothing.


Jeff Haney
Haney appears Mondays on The Chris Andrews Show, ESPN Radio 1450-AM, Reno.
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With the NFL’s owners and players mired in a labor impasse that could jeopardize the forthcoming season, it seems an appropriate time to review some figures on football betting in Nevada that do have substance.

Football wagering in Nevada sports books accounts for about 44 percent of the total sports betting handle here, which exceeded $2.7 billion last year. Despite inconsequential statements from industry flacks, it turns out recent performances by Nevada sports books in football have been consistent.

In the 2010-11 football season, Nevada books won $63.6 million from gamblers, holding 5.3 percent of the total of $1.2 billion wagered, according to the state Gaming Control Board. In 2009-10, books won $67.7 million, holding 6.2 percent of $1.1 billion wagered. And in 2008-09, books won $57.2 million, holding 5.2 percent of $1.1 billion wagered.

All figures encompass the entire football season, from the preseason schedule through the Super Bowl, and combine betting action on college and pro football. The Gaming Control Board does not track NFL betting separately.

Perhaps more startling are parlay card figures, which are tracked separately. This past football season, the state’s sports books won $17.9 million on parlay cards, holding 33 percent of the total $54.7 million wagered on the cards. In 2009-10, the books also held 33 percent of the handle, and their hold rate was 32 percent in 2008-09.

By way of comparison, the hold rate on Megabucks slot machines last year was “only” 12.5 percent. The worst table game for players, three-card poker, commanded a hold rate of 28.2 percent.

Keep those stats in mind when you’re filling out a parlay card this football season … if there is one.


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