First in a series
Editor’s note: Over the next three days, the Courier will look at some of the pros and cons of legalized sports betting in Iowa and why it’s a concern for college athletic programs.
WATERLOO — Point spreads. Money-line bets. Under/over. Parlay bets.
When visitors walk into the new sports book at the Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo beginning this week, eight 65-inch odds boards will greet them with all kinds of numbers under all kinds categories from Major League baseball to college football and even cricket.
For anyone new to sports betting, which became legal in Iowa this year, it initially will be a dizzying experience.
But Nick Bogdanovich, the director of trading at William Hill (United States) based in Las Vegas —- the organization that will provide all betting odds for Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo — said veteran and new bettors will have a fantastic experience.
“Obviously, there will be a learning curve on terminology and lingo and how the sheets read and all, but it will be a great experience,” Bogdanovich said.
The betting experience begins in Iowa casinos Thursday, and will ramp up Aug. 24 with the first college football games. The experience will be exactly like the one in Las Vegas.
“We offer literally everything underneath the sun,” Bogdanovich said. “So, if you want to bet on soccer or cricket ... really anything, we have a vast menu. Any person looking to wager on anything, they will find it and if they don’t find it they can request it and I’ll put it up for them.”
In addition to the big board of odds, there will be a kiosk of betting sheets, and there will be a William Hill mobile app to allow betting on smartphones.
With so many bets that can be made — from a straight bet where a bettor may put $10 on his or her favorite team to a prop bet on whether Iowa or Iowa State wins the coin toss before their game on Sept. 14, the process will take some time for new bettors to pick up.
“To be honest, it is very easy and people pick it up fast and clerks will be trained to help them,” Bogdanovich said. “There will be a learning curve, but it will be a short one.”
Just how do Bogdanovich and his staff prepare a daily odds board?
There are a lot of factors involved, Bogdanovich said.
For every sport for which it produces odds, William Hill has a power rating for each team. For example in the NFL, the Patriots in a match-up with the New York Jets have a power rating of 27, and the Jets a power rating of 20. That would initially would make the Patriots a 7-point favorite, or minus-7 in betting terms, meaning New England would have to win by eight or more points for a bettor to win a wager on the Patriots.
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“Which team is at home would add or subtract another 3 1/2-4 points,” Bogdanovich explained. “In the middle of the year, we begin to factor in injuries. How did they fare the first time they played? Who does each team have on deck and potentially could they be looking ahead? Little things add up to make the number.”
In simple terms, sports betting is a business and organizations don’t get in a business to lose money.
So at William Hill and other organizations that set odds from money lines to point spreads to over/unders, bookmakers have to pay out all wagers on a correct outcome. Of course, bookmakers keep all the money wagered on losing bets.
With that in mind, bookmakers want to limit their liability on the market, which in layman’s terms means they want bettors to place bets on both sides for the favorite and underdog or on both the under and the over, which is a number predicting the total number of points that would be scored in any particular game.
Additionally, odds will fluctuate when a majority of the action (wagers) is placed on an underdog. In that case, take the Patriots’ seven-point line against the Jets mentioned earlier. After that line comes out, if an overwhelming amount of wagers are placed on the Jets, bookmakers would drop that line to encourage more action on New England.
“Money dictates it,” Bogdanovich said. “It’s a market just like any other place, we put up a starting number, but the customers dictate it after.”
While straight bets are the easiest to make, many bettors find parlays that combine wagers on multiple games the most exotic and thrilling because the longer odds mean higher payouts.
For example, a winning $20 baseball parlay on the Rockies, Cardinals, Dodgers, Astros and Red Sox would have paid $360.95. A single loss among those games makes the wager a loser.
Parlays can be mixed across the board with Major League baseball, college football, Major League Soccer and NFL games on the same ticket.
“People mix parlays and we see crazy ones all the time,” Bogdanovich added.
Bogdanovich also noted that sports betting is the fairest game in the casino.
“One hundred percent. No question about it,” Bogdanovich said. “It is for mom and pop. Sports books’ main goal is five or six percent so you have a great shot at staying in the game. Of all the games offered, I think sports betting is the fairest.
“It is fun. It is analytical. You can get as serious as you want and look at all the statistics online and treat it as a chess game. And as you said, you are a Cubs fan and can say, ‘I’m betting the Cubs.’
“You can make it as simple as you want or as analytical as you want. That is the beauty of it.”
Tomorrow: While sports betting isn’t currently a problem area for the NCAA and its membership, it’s a dangerous threat that requires constant education and attention.