The day of reckoning for sports betting finally arrived on Monday. Long rumored to be inevitable, SCOTUS finally repealed PASPA calling the 1992 law unconstitutional; placing the ability to take sports wagers in the hands of individual states. Accomplishing such a goal at the federal level might have been the big war, but battles in various states are about to get underway with many of the most important details yet to be ironed out even in New Jersey and Mississippi. Rather than speculate on which state will be next to legalize, or how the landscape will look in Pennsylvania or West Virginia, I’ve elected to take a different path.
Here are four things I would demand from every operator nationwide if they made me sports betting czar for a day:
Regulate Hold on Futures
There’s no reason sportsbooks should be allowed to hold upwards of 50% in major markets as it pertains to the most popular sports in this country. (Yes, it’s up to the consumer to know what they’re doing so the option to pass is always available). Knowing we’re poised to see an explosion in betting handle, this pet peeve of mine definitely gets worse before it gets better. That said, lowering hold to take in more bets should be the mantra of every casino operator, especially when they’re forced to match the competition. Rather than pretending each book could work on the honor system, I believe a systematic state-run audit randomly throughout the year (think athletes peeing in a cup) should be instituted. There’s no reason you can’t offer a good product to consumers at fair prices rather than stealing from them without a gun.
If this isn’t possible, then the caveat to this new Bet the Board proposed statute is every team offered in a futures market should be available as part of a yes/no proposition. If you want to take 40 cents on the dollar in the big market, so be it, but make sure there’s a corresponding Yes/No for undercutting the market (ahem local Vegas books with the Golden Knights) and you’ll quickly learn the true equilibrium point.
Post Real Limits
I don’t care if you’re going to keep players to $500 on NFL First Half Totals or $100 bucks on WNBA sides; post your limits for the world to see and be ready to defend yourself from the ridicule if you’re scared to take a bet. If need be, construct posted limits for the sharp guys and offer more aggressive approaches for recreational customers like you already do, but own up to the limits you’re falsely publicizing. While I’m fully aware table games and sports are separate entities, it’s become a running joke that certain Nevada casinos profess to take bets from the sharpest customers while offering aggressive limits, yet they cower when someone tries to bet $2,000 on a marquee college football game. More liquidity means less volatility in betting pools, making larger limits easier to fade against recreational players. If books don’t want to take big boy limits, so be it — and should that be the case, then own your risk management philosophy. Don’t sing from the rooftops (or radio) that you take big bets from anyone that comes into your establishment when you actually plan to cower in the corner.
Mandate Standard Juice
This is a pipe dream in real life, especially given the various tax structures we’re about to see employed in various jurisdictions, but remember, I’m the sports betting czar for 24-hours, so bear with me.
I believe every operator should do their damnedest to trade football and basketball at -110 vig, while striving to offer baseball and hockey on a 10 cent line. The majority of sports bettors (97%+ percent) find it impossible to turn a profit under the current structure; imagine if you start straddling games at -120 both ways, or even something steeper? You can’t call it sports betting at that point, it essentially becomes a slightly better derivative of mandatory parlays or even more accurately, a state-run sports lottery. I’m all for the saying; it’s immoral to let a sucker keep his money, so when new jurisdictions come online, make your feelings known that crap won’t be tolerated by continuing to shop for the best lines.
Book 3-Way Soccer Lines Correctly
I’m aware soccer has a higher hold than most traditional North American sports. I’ve also come to learn that the draw option has single-handedly allowed European bookmakers to build mansions in the country of their choosing — and retire long before they ever dreamed possible. Nevertheless, when it comes to booking marquee matches in this form, do it the right damn way! The thought process in bookmaking is simple; every action should have an equal and opposite reaction. One number goes up, the other number comes down. So what I’m saying in not so many words, is that when Spain opens up World Cup play and the line originally looks like this:
Spain -115 / Portugal +350 / Draw +240
It shouldn’t look like this when it closes:
Spain -140 / Portugal +300 / Draw +220
There’s nothing that pisses me off more and shows blatant disregard for your customers than moving numbers in this fashion.
We’re all aware most recreational soccer bettors in this country aren’t that sophisticated yet, but that shouldn’t mean bookmakers act like hacks by manipulating the product.