06/23/2011 2:51PM

Football action heats up, in the books, at least


Let the record show that June 10 was the official start of the football season here in Las Vegas.

Granted, we’re still 10 weeks away from the opening Saturday of the college football season and 11 weeks from what is, hopefully, a full NFL season. And sure, NFL Week 1 lines have been up since before the draft in April.

But Friday, June 10, was the day big-time betting on the upcoming season really got under way.

The Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas was the first to put up its 100 college games of the year just after noon that day, and wiseguys jumped on the early numbers and bet them into place. Limits were set at $1,000, and bettors could make three wagers and then move to the back of the line.

“On some games we took three, four hits and moved a point each time,” said Tony Miller, the Golden Nugget’s director of race and sports. “Some we took action on both sides after moving them.”

Some significant moves:

◗ In one of the marquee games of the opening week, Saturday, Sept. 3, the Nugget opened Boise St. as a 6-point favorite over Georgia. Money came in steadily on the SEC home dog (well, actually, it’s a neutral field at the Georgia Dome, but you know what I mean), and it went all the way down to Boise St. -1.5.

◗ Also Sept. 3, Oregon opened as a 3-point favorite vs. LSU, but money showed on LSU, and it was moved to 2.

◗ On Sept. 10, Michigan opened as a 2-point home favorite against Notre Dame, but all the money came in on the Irish, who were moved all the way to a 3-point fave.

There were several other change of favorites as bettors disagreed with the Golden Nugget linesmakers. Time will tell who was right in those instances, as well as the overall bottom line. Miller said the Nugget showed a profit the first three years doing this before losing for the first time last year. He said he handled more than the $130,000 he took in last year on the opening day of bets when they had 200 games on the board.

At the south end of town, the M Resort put up lines on all 256 scheduled NFL games.

Mike Colbert, who overseas the M sports book as well as their sister books at the Tropicana, Hard Rock, and Cosmopolitan, said his staff had done the work and decided to put up the lines despite the NFL’s labor unrest. Games must take place within 45 days of the scheduled date for action. Colbert said none of the lines moved more than a point. That’s not surprising, since pro football lines are pretty easy to make – ask even a non-bettor to predict a line on two given NFL teams, and he could come close on a lot of games just by saying “that should be around a field goal” or “that’s at least a touchdown.” Most lines do gravitate to those key numbers.

The Las Vegas Hilton has added its NFL games of the year to the menu (selected marquee games each week plus all the Thursday and Sunday and Monday night games). Expect to see more books adding more football games to the boards, and we’ll be seeing over/under season win totals in the next few weeks.

Vegas is just about ready. Let training camps begin.

Other sports book notes

While we wait for the actual football season to begin, a lot of the other sports are getting a bigger piece of the betting pie, especially since the conclusion of the NBA (the Mavericks beat the Heat in 6 games after being 16-1 at the start of the playoffs and a +170 underdog on the finals) and NHL seasons(the Bruins beat the Canucks in 7 games after being 9-1 at the start of the playoffs and 9-5 in the Stanley Cup Finals, though they got support in the last games as they went off as low as +115 underdog). More people start paying attention to tennis and college baseball as well as the summer stand-by, baseball:

◗ In the absence of Tiger Woods, the U.S. Open still attracted a fair amount of betting action here in Vegas, and no bettors were happier than the ones who backed Rory McIlroy, who was 20-1 at the Las Vegas Hilton before being bet down and closing at 15-1. As everyone saw, he ran away with the tournament − the over/under for the winning score was 280.5, and he shot a 16-under 268. He was lowered to 9-4 after Thursday’s first round, -300 after Friday, and a prohibitive -1100 after Saturday.

McIlroy opened as the 6-1 favorite for the British Open on July 14-17 at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in England. Lee Westwood is the second choice at 10-1, with Luke Donald and Woods at 15-1. Jason Day, who has finished second in the Masters and U.S. Open, is 30-1. Golfers must tee off for action, so those betting on Woods are obviously thinking they’ll get value if he is healthy enough to play and that he’ll scratch again if he’s not.

◗ On Saturday, the U.S. soccer team will take on Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. The Hilton has made Mexico a narrow -130 favorite, and the U.S. is offered at +110. In 90-minute, three-way betting − in which there is a draw option and you lose if the score is tied after regulation – Mexico is +140, the U.S. is +180, and the draw at +220.