The point spread on the College Football National Championship between Ohio State and Alabama continued to grow over the weekend, while the betting action on the game was almost dead even entering game day at sportsbooks around the nation.
On Sunday night, roughly 24 hours before Monday's kickoff, the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas had only two more bets on Alabama than on Ohio State. At BetMGM sportsbooks, the two teams were separated by just seven bets.
"Don't think I've ever seen such a high-volume game have a ticket count that tight," John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook, told ESPN.
Despite the balanced action, Alabama had grown to a consensus 9-point favorite over the Buckeyes on Monday morning. The Crimson Tide opened as around 8-point favorites. The line dipped to as low as -7 last week, but had steadily be moving in favor of Alabama in recent days.
The action was a little more-lopsided on Alabama at DraftKings, veteran bookmaker Johnny Avello said.
"I think there will be money on the Ohio State money line [on Monday]," Avello said. "I think they'll end up laying Alabama [on the point spread] and taking Ohio State on the money line."
The best-case scenario for multiple sportsbooks was Alabama to win outright but not cover the spread.
"That's not unusual," Avello said. "That's typically the way the betting on these games go."
Here are the notable bets from wild-card weekend.
• Consensus opening lines for the divisional round of the NFL playoffs via Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill:
Rams at Packers (-7, 46.5)
Ravens at Bills (-2.5, 50)
Browns at Chiefs (-9.5, 55)
Buccaneers at Saints (-3.5, 50)
• The SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas opened the Saints as 5.5-point favorites over the Buccaneers and instantly took sharp action on Tampa Bay, pushing the number down to -4 Sunday night. By Monday morning, the number had settled at New Orleans -3 (-120).
• All three underdogs covered the closing spread on Saturday, producing a big win for the books after the betting public had latched on to each of the favorites in the opening day of wild-card weekend.
Bettors battled back Sunday, with two of three favorites -- the Ravens and Saints -- covering the spread. "[We] gave back what we won yesterday alone on the Saints game," Jeff Stoneback, director of BetMGM sportsbooks in Nevada, told ESPN on Sunday.
• Underdogs went 4-2 against the closing line over the weekend and are now 15-3 against the spread in the wild-card round the last four postseasons.
• Shortly before kickoff of the nightcap between the Browns and Steelers, a bettor with BetMGM in Nevada placed a $550,000 on Cleveland +5.5, the largest reported wager of the weekend. Even with the giant bet on the Browns, BetMGM still needed Cleveland in the game, thanks to liability on parlays and teasers that were tied to the Steelers.
Cleveland won 48-37.
• Other reported big bets over the weekend included: $330,000 on under 48 in the Bears-Saints, which won $300,000. $240,000 on Ravens -3 (-120), which won $200,000. $210,000 on Saints -10, which won $176,000.
• The best result of the weekend for sportsbook PointsBet was the Rams winning outright over the favored Seahawks, followed by the underdog Browns' win over the Steelers.
The worst result for PointsBet was the favored Ravens winning and covering the spread against the Titans.
• The best result of the weekend for the SuperBook was the Colts covering the spread in a 27-24 loss to the Bills. "The whole world was on Buffalo," the SuperBook's Murray said. "If Colts had won that game outright, it would've been one of our biggest wins of the year."
• The weekly betting interest on the NFL has not been significantly hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. States with legal online sports betting have routinely set monthly records for amount wagered during football season. However, COVID's impact on futures markets, like the odds to win the Super Bowl, has been severe. Jason Scott, BetMGM sportsbook director, estimated the amount wagered on the odds to win the Super Bowl was down upwards of 200% year-over-year.
More bets have been placed and more money has been staked on the New York Mets to win the World Series than any other team at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. After last week's blockbuster trade for superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor and pitcher Carlos Carrasco, the Mets' odds to win the World Series improved from 16-1 to 12-1.
"The Mets are our biggest liability right now for World Series futes," Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill U.S., said in a release from the company.
Cleveland's World Series odds fell from 30-1 to 45-1, after the trade.
Odds to win World Series (via William U.S., as of Sunday)
White Sox +1100
Underdogs in the NBA are off to a hot start, covering the spread at nearly a 60% clip three weeks into the season.
Early last week, Liverpool opened as a small favorite, around +108, over Aston Villa in a FA Cup match slated for Friday. The odds remained steady until Thursday morning, as word start to spread of a COVID-19 outbreak that caused Aston Villa to close its training facility. In a two-hour stretch, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET, Aston Villa went from a +220 underdog to a +700 underdog at sportsbooks around the globe.
On Friday, Aston Villa announced a lineup featuring only youth players. Fourteen players were making their debut for Aston Villa, which closed as a 30-1 underdog at William Hill U.S. books and lost 4-1.
Three questions with ...
... Sports betting lobbyist Jeremy Kudon, via email
Jeremy Kudon, founder and chairman of the Public Policy Group for lobbying firm Orrick, has been in the thick of expanded sports betting legalization in the United States, representing professional sports leagues and prominent gaming companies. He participated in this week's Q&A, centered on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's public support of legalizing online sports betting.
Q: What hurdles remain for New York to legalize online sports betting?
A: It's worth taking a moment and recognizing just how significant Gov. Cuomo's announcement was. For three years, we've been unable to get online sports betting legislation past the 50-yard line in New York. Now we are in the red zone. The major remaining hurdles are (1) ensuring the New York Assembly and Senate include online sports betting in their budgets; and (2) helping the governor's office and legislature reach agreement on a framework that will lead to the best online sports betting market in the nation and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in much-needed revenue for New York. And because nothing in the state legislatures is ever simple, all of that has to happen before the budget is voted on and signed into law on April 1.
Q: In your experience, what do you think the professional leagues you represent, such as the NBA and Major League Baseball, believe is necessary to create a successful, robust sports betting market in New York?
A: The leagues' priorities for online sports betting legislation also happen to be the core ingredients for a successful market: provisions that protect the integrity of the underlying games and ensure that bettors are using official league data -- when available -- for in-play wagers; a framework that allows multiple operators to participate in the legal market; and provisions, like remote registration and deposit, that allow mobile operators to compete with illegal offshore sports books. I think you'll see in the next two years that the states that incorporate these priorities in their frameworks, like Michigan, Virginia and Tennessee, will have the most success.
Q: What do you believe is a reasonable timeline for regulated online sports betting to be up and running in New York?
A: If online sports betting is included in the final budget on April 1, I don't see any reason it shouldn't be up and running by the start of NFL season in September. The [New York] Gaming Commission already has regulations in place for the retail sportsbooks at the state's four casinos. It shouldn't be that difficult to issue temporary regulations for online sports books and license those companies who are currently operating in New Jersey or the dozen other states with online sports betting. That said, it has been 12 months and counting since Michigan signed its sports betting law and the state has yet to take its first online wager.