09/13/2012 3:52PM

Tuley: Sports book market continues to consolidate; NFL picks


Since moving here nearly 14 years ago, I’ve written countless times about the changing casino landscape – and now we can add cyberspace.

I was here for the opening of the Bellagio in 1998, Mandalay Bay and Venetian in 1999, the new Aladdin in 2000 (and retheming to the Planet Hollywood in 2007), the Green Valley Ranch and Palms in 2001, the Wynn in 2005, and the Red Rock and South Coast (later sold and renamed South Point) in 2006. The recession hit and we saw imploded properties such as the Stardust, New Frontier, and El Rancho removed from the skyline without their planned replacements rising from the ashes. We have since added posh new places like the M and Aria/CityCenter in 2009 and Cosmopolitan in 2010.

Other changes along the way included mergers or companies being bought or sold. Since I cover the race and sports books, I’ve always tried to keep readers up to date on which companies were controlling the lines at which properties, especially as more consolidation occurred on the Strip as well as in the so-called locals casinos such as Station Casinos and Coast Resorts (now owned by Boyd Gaming).

But none of that prepared us for the overhaul of the marketplace in the past few years. Since operating the M race and sports book since its opening, Cantor Gaming (which does not own a hotel or run a casino, just race and sports books) has either taken over or upgraded the sports books at the Venetian, Palazzo, Hard Rock, Tropicana, and Palms, with the Silverton to come by the end of the month. William Hill PLC, the British bookmaking giant, has left a bigger footprint on the Las Vegas landscape as it purchased the former chains operated by Leroy’s, Lucky’s, and Club Cal Neva and now controls 55 percent of the betting outlets in Nevada with 76 manned locations and about 80 kiosks at local taverns such as Buffalo Wild Wings, PT’s Pub, and Sierra Gold.

Those developments have reduced the number of outs for sports bettors to 13. The other multiple-held groups are MGM, Caesars, Boyd/Coast Casinos, Station Casinos, South Point, and Stratosphere/Arizona Charlie’s, with the only remaining independent shops out there being LVH (formerly Hilton), Treasure Island, Wynn, Golden Nugget, and Jerry’s Nugget.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’m trying to come up with a better analogy to describe how there is more betting done now that is unseen in the traditional sense of going to the counter in a brick-and-mortar casino to make a wager. We’re seeing the transition of people choosing to bet away from the casino. Sports books here have had phone wagering for a few decades, but that used to entail calling in and getting the line and placing a wager (and don’t get me started on the pager systems that required you to wait to get a page back with a code and then entering that before having access to the system). Station Casinos had online intrastate wagering from a home PC, but you had go through a convoluted system of entering a CD in your hard drive every time you dialed in).

But that’s all changed, with Cantor and William Hill (upgrading the former Leroy’s platform) leading the way. All bets must be made within the state lines (and verified by GPS), but you can sign up for an account at Cantor and William Hill manned locations and bet on iPhones, iPads, and Android devices (Cantor also offers betting over any wi-fi connection). Station Casinos just launched a mobile phone app that works on Android and will add iPhone in another week or so. Stations also has betting on PCs if you have Cox Cable (again, in-state only).

It’s not your dad’s sports-betting world anymore. It might be closer to your kids’.

Back to the betting board . . .

I went 0-2 with my official NFL bankroll plays here last week as the Dolphins +12.5 got blown out 30-10 by the Texans (though those with +13 still had hopes of a late backdoor cover), and the Steelers gave up a late lead to lose to the Broncos. I was 2-3 in the first week of the LVH SuperContest – which drew a record 745 entrants at $1,500 a pop and will have a first-place prize of $447,000 – so I did a bad job of pulling out what I felt were my best bets. I will strive to do better this weekend.

Chiefs +3 vs. Bills

I’m not basing everything on just one game, but the Bills looked worse in their loss to the Jets than the Chiefs did in their loss to the Falcons. I’m happy to still be getting a full field goal here (note: line is mostly –3 with added vig of –120, and I would love the Chiefs side even more at +3.5)

PLAY: Chiefs for 1 unit

Seahawks +3.5 vs. Cowboys

The advance line on this game was Cowboys –1 (actually, it opened with Seattle favored over the summer and rose to Seattle –2.5 with all the Russell Wilson hype), however now it’s steaming toward Cowboys –3.5 just based off their win over the Giants and the Seahawks’s loss at Arizona.

PLAY: Seahawks for 1 unit.

Rams +3 vs. Redskins

Will the hype over Robert Griffin III be justified? I’ll fade it at least for the short term with a Rams team that nearly knocked off a better team on the road in Detroit last week. It looks like another live home underdog.

PLAY: Rams for 1 unit

Lions +6.5 vs. 49ers

The San Francisco bandwagon is loading up after their win over the Packers. This line was 5 on Sunday and has been bet to 49ers –6.5 as of this writing and could be –7 by the time you read this. I understand the Lions should have beaten the Rams easier, but they also should have a confidence boost for pulling out the win. This should come down to the final possession.

PLAY: Lions for 1 unit

Last week and year-to-date in NFL: 0-2 for loss of 2.2 units (risking 1.1 units to win 1).