Vegas bookies cheering national title game wagers
LAS VEGAS (AP) It's not exactly the Super Bowl - that will have to wait another month - but Las Vegas bookies are looking to cash in on college football's national championship game.
Bettors, too, are hoping to make a score on the last college football game of the season.
''I'm expecting a monster handle on this game,'' said Nick Bogdanovich of the William Hill betting chain. ''These are two marquee teams and people are eager for a championship game. Plus the economy is good, so that makes it even better.''
Familiarity doesn't breed contempt at the betting window, one more reason the game is attractive to bettors both big and small. Alabama is in Monday night's title game for the third straight year, and bettors like a known quantity.
Georgia, meanwhile, brings a fresh challenger after two years of Clemson and a rabid fan base not afraid to wager a few dollars on the school's chances of winning the national title for the first time in 38 years.
Alabama is a 4-point favorite in most of this city's sports books, a number that has drawn plenty of action on both sides. It has fluctuated a half point either way as money has come in on the game, but the two-way action has been strong.
''So far this is a bookmakers' delight,'' said Jimmy Vaccaro, oddsmaker at the South Point resort. ''Even an old guy like me can book a game like this.''
Vaccaro said Alabama would have been favored against any team that got into the national title game. That includes Oklahoma, which lost the Rose Bowl to Georgia, and Ohio State, which didn't get a College Football Playoff invite.
And don't even begin with the claims from Central Florida that it is the best team in the nation. The undefeated Knights beat Auburn as 11-point underdogs in the Peach Bowl but would have been two touchdown underdogs to the Crimson Tide.
''They should be involved in the playoffs,'' Bogdanovich said. ''They would be big `dogs, but they should be in the equation.''
Betting on the national title game has been increasing over the years, though the handle is hurt somewhat by the fact that the game is on a Monday night and a lot of tourists in town over the weekend have left. Still, it rivals the action on any of this weekend's NFL games and will bring in millions of dollars in legal bets.
''This one will be every bit as big as the NFL playoffs except for the final two playoff teams get to the Super Bowl,'' Bogdanovich said.
The Super Bowl dwarfs every other event in Nevada's legal sports book, drawing a record $138.5 million in bets last season. But while numbers aren't broken out by state regulators, it is widely believed that betting on college football overall has drawn even with the NFL for the season.
''It's that close,'' Vaccaro said. ''Even the bad bowl games this year with nobody in the stands people still came in to bet them, I can tell you that.''
While oddsmakers are expecting a close game, they are also anticipating a low-scoring affair. The total over/under for the game is just 45 points at some books, and a half point less at others.
No matter who wins, bookmakers expect to be making a profit. That's fitting in a year when NFL bettors had their way in the books on some weeks and bookies had to rely on profits from college contests to even up their own books.
''We had a good season in college, much better than the NFL,'' said Jeff Sherman, an oddsmaker at the Westgate Las Vegas sports book.