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Nevada sportsbooks brace for Summer Olympic betting action

1 August 2016

When the 2016 Summer Olympic Games get underway later this week in Rio, there will be a different kind of excitement in the air inside Nevada sportsbooks.

Earlier last year, Nevada gaming regulators provided a green light for operators to offer lines on Olympic sporting or athletic events sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee.

With the Games just days away, Casino City grabbed the ear of two Nevada sportsbook industry veterans to get their take on what kind of action the Olympics will attract, how they went about setting lines, what sports will be most popular, and if we'll ever see a day when wagering on politics will be offered to the betting public.

Jay Rood has been with MGM Resorts International for 10 years and since 2008 has been Vice President of Race & Sports, overseeing 10 books in Las Vegas and two in Reno. Jeff Sherman got his start in the business back in 1993 and serves as the assistant sportsbook manager at Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, and is widely known for his proficiency in setting odds for professional golf.

VP of Race & Sports at MGM Resorts International Jay Rood

VP of Race & Sports at MGM Resorts International Jay Rood

Casino City: In recent years we have seen Nevada Gaming regulators finally allow wagering not only on Olympic sports, but also the Heisman Trophy, Super Bowl MVP and Cy Young Award. Do you think this will pave the way for eventually seeing politics on the board, and what kind of action would this year's U.S. Presidential election have generated?

Rood: I don't believe that we will see action on politics anytime soon. I think many lawmakers would have a hard time passing that. If we could have booked this year's presidential race and party nominations, it would have been huge.

Sherman: There will be a day (that betting on politics will be allowed). I don't know how far out it is, but this year's presidential race would have been the largest thing we ever handled. It would have blown the Super Bowl away. I'm guessing the next thing we'll see — and the wheels are already in motion — is eSports wagering. I think eventually we'll have the European model on what can be booked. It's going to be a step-by-step process, but it's slowly getting there.

Casino City: When did you post lines for this year's Olympic Games?

Rood: We posted the opening lines just this last week, as the uncertainty of Russia made us hold off. It is still a question with who will participate and their classification.

Sherman: We put them up the first week of June. The only sports that have seen any kind of significant action has been the men's and women's basketball, and men's and women's soccer. And that's what we expected. We'll be posting lines for the individual matches in those sports, and that's what we expect will drive most of the business we do. It's something people aren't used to seeing on the board out here so the action is just trickling in right now, but I think once things get started and the games are on TV, people will start inquiring more about it.

Casino City: Is the action you are receiving thus far just public money, or are the sharps finding value and wading in?

Rood: Mostly sharp action, but very light. As the Games begin, we expect to see the public money show up.

Sherman: Right now it's been all public money. We haven't seen much sharp money. Not sure if it's because it's new in Nevada and they're just waiting to get acquainted, but it's just been public money ever since we put the lines up.

Casino City: How do you go about setting odds on Olympic sports, particularly on the lesser-known sports, and what kind of limits are being used?

The betting action at the renowned Westgate Las Vegas sportsbook will get a boost when the Olympic Games begin later this week.

The betting action at the renowned Westgate Las Vegas sportsbook will get a boost when the Olympic Games begin later this week.

Rood: It is a tricky task. We have manageable limits on the lesser-known sports and will have bigger limits on basketball, golf and tennis. If we post a bad line, we will know pretty soon as the wise guys hit it quickly. From there we just adjust with big moves and shorten the limits.

Sherman: There's already worldwide markets out there on the events we're not familiar with, so we just lean toward what the market prices are. We do that with a lot of sports we're not familiar with. As for limits, it depends on the sport and the customer. We'll take more on basketball futures — like $20,000 — than, say, handball.

Casino City: Other than the obvious ones (basketball, tennis, soccer), what other sports do you think will attract significant action?

Rood: I think track and field could see some action, and the volleyball events, too.

Sherman: Yes, I think when we get to the track and field events they will be popular because you have guys like Usain Bolt. And then I'll get the golf odds up the week of the event, almost like it's a regular PGA TOUR stop. Some of the guys are playing in Hartford this week and then going to Rio, so I want to make sure they get through this and they are committed to playing. Once they do, I will get those odds up and I'm sure we'll see some decent action.

Casino City: What do you predict the state handle will be for the Olympics?

Rood: I think the handle for the state will fall between $20 million and $30 million, and we hope to hold about 4% or 5%. By comparison, an average NFL Sunday handle statewide is probably between $45 million and $55 million.

Sherman: I have no idea. It will vary from shop to shop, depending on how many events each puts up. It's just so new. This is the first time we're really getting our feet wet with the Olympics, so we're as interested as anyone else to find out what kind of action it's going to attract.
Nevada sportsbooks brace for Summer Olympic betting action is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT