Another Black Eye
Boxing became relevant again in pop culture news on Saturday night, but for all the wrong reasons. Rather than people from all walks of life discussing what a great fight transpired at the MGM Grand, we had the same people sending venomous tweets about the injustice of the scoring that awarded Timothy Bradley a split-decision victory over heavily favored (-450) Manny Pacquiao.
The top sports writers in the world that cover boxing all had Pacquiao winning convincingly on their own personal scoring cards, yet two of the three judges seemed to be watching another fight than everyone else. Even the one judge, Jerry Roth, who had Pacquiao winning 115-113 on his scorecard received criticism for scoring it too close.
Most Las Vegas sports books broke even for the fight because of the large Pacquaio following that evened out of the risk on the Bradley. In most title bouts, the underdog always gets most of the action because the general public loves to bet a little to win a lot. Bradley cashed in at 7/2 odds (Bet $100 to win $350) with most of those bettors believing the scoring was done just right, at least for their wallet.
“We were pretty well balanced on the fight,” said MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood. “We had a lot more tickets written on Bradley, but our day rested entirely with the fight going the distance. We needed a decision by anyone.”
One of the shops that fared well on the Bradley decision was the Golden Nugget and director Tony Miller said he had all kinds of disgruntled bettors loudly voicing their opinions about the scoring.
“We got a lot of Pacquaio money early at minus-400 and then up to -425, so we didn’t have a lot of the other liability on the ’dog that some of the other places might have had,” said Miller referring to the price he offered that was well below the market. “When the fight was over, some of the bettors were extremely angry, yelling ’fix’ and wondering how Pacquiao could’ve lost when he dominated the fight.“
The Nevada Gaming Control Board has always taken the stance that sports books are allowed to only take wagers on sporting events that happen on the field of play and not those that are voted upon, which is why we don’t see odds on things like a player to win MVP.
But you have to wonder about the logic behind not allowing a pool of hundreds of writers who cover a sport not being enough of a sample size to proclaim an MVP for wagering purposes, yet only three judges have the fate of millions of Nevada dollars in action resting on their pencil.
Bad decisions have always been part of boxing and always will. I’m no conspiracy theorists, other than maybe the New York Knicks winning the NBA lottery and Patrick Ewing in 1985, but it does seem awfully convenient.
Consider that the biggest fight that everyone wants to see -- Floyd Mayweather vs. Pacquaio -- probably won’t ever happen, and if it does ever happen, both will be well past their prime. A Pacquiao-Bradley rematch will have a storyline line attached to it making sales for last Saturday’s pay-per-view event pale in comparison.
Had Pacquaio won, it would have been just another boxing match that barely made a blip on the sports pages across America.
A controversial loss?
Well, now you have something a story can be made of and keep boxing on the front pages and offer a topic for the chatter boxes on ESPN to debate. In boxing it seems that any publicity is good publicity and in this case, it’s probably truer now than it ever was.
And to that truth, the next fight will be big. It doesn’t matter if it’s boxing, pro wrestling or a movie, everyone loves to see how someone who was wronged exacts revenge, or fails, when the opportunity presents itself. Boxing news has now finally crossed over into mainstream America for something other than Mayweather jurisprudence stories.
On a day that began with Nevada race and sports books losing an estimated 25% in handle because Triple Crown candidate ’I‘ll Have Another’ was scratched, it ended with most Las Vegas books taking one on the chin, and it wasn’t totally due to the fight.
Twelve of the 15 baseball games on Saturday were won by favorites and 11 of those games covered on the run-line creating a parlay bonanza for most of the small money in town. Sports books don’t like to get beat by sharp money, but it’s not them that they’re worried about, it’s the perfect storm that occurs when every $5 parlay hits. And in the case of baseball paying out with true odds and run-lines covering, a $5 bet can turn into a $1,000 payout quickly.
To make matters worse, the Miami Heat covered their 8-point spread against the Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals which didn’t help the house out by any means. The bettor who had five winning run-line bets on Saturday was also likely to play the favorite in the basketball game.
If anything, Saturday proved once again that there is no more vibrant place in the world, win or lose, than being in a Las Vegas race and sports book on a busy day.
Euro Cup Action Light
After talking with a few different sports books, I’m being told the first three days of action on the Euro Cup was lighter than expected. Part of the reason has been that there have been only two outstanding matchups out of the six matches played through Sunday, but the other part is that there was so much going on that the casual bettors’ spotlight hasn’t found soccer yet.
Friday’s opening games didn’t offer anything outstanding and then on Saturday and Sunday there were day baseball games taking priority. The big betting push will come this week when soccer is the only thing going on from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (PT) which is where the bettors will get hooked and then continue to follow and wager throughout the tournament.
Between the World Cup and Euro Cup, every two years in June the sports books have been able to rely on continued revenue growth in a sport that some say Americans don’t like.
Belmont Stakes Handle Up
The good news is that most race books reported an increase in handle of about 10% over last year. The bad news is that it could have been much higher had Triple Crown candidate ’I’ll Have Another’ not been scratched the day before the 144th running of the Belmont Stakes.
“I went back and took a long look at our Belmont Stakes betting history and it showed an increase of 20 to 30% in years when a horse was running for the Triple Crown compared to the previous year when there wasn’t,“ said Wynn Resort race and sports book director John Avello.
When news struck that the horse would be scratched, a somber mood hovered over every race book and Avello was right in the thick of it all with them.
“I just had this sinking feeling,” said Avello. “We had a horse coming in with a legitimate chance to win the Triple Crown for the first time since 1978, that I think everyone wanted to witness, and then the announcement came and it just kind of took the air out of us all.“
With Tiger Woods fresh off his victory at the Memorial two weeks ago, coupled with our desire to see him do well, it’s not hard to tell who the public is betting to win this week’s U.S. Open at the Olympic Country Club in San Francisco. Just before the Memorial, Woods was listed as tied for the second choice to win at 15/1 by the LVH Super Book, just behind Rory McIrloy who was posted at 10/1.
After getting his second win of the season, Woods' odds dropped all the way down to 6/1 where it currently sits now. Other golfers that have been seeing action include Lee Westwood and Luke Donald at 12/1, Rickie Fowler and Jason Dufner at 25/1 and last week's St. Jude winner, Zack Johnson, at 40/1.
Most sports books will have adjusted odds to win and matchups after each round throughout the tournament. Should the tournament not be a runaway, the LVH will offer in-progress wagering while the match is going on during the final round.