Moving the line
So similar to the stock market is modern sports betting that some in the business refer to their oddsmakers as traders.
To a bookmaker, any game, or event within that game, is a market. Any odds or point spread that they set is a price. As odds move, the market follows. If the Westgate has Oklahoma City favored by only 4 points against Golden State while most other casinos have the spread at 5, it is almost certain to attract a flood of money on the favorite.
While it can win or lose large sums on any given game, a sportsbook’s only sure source of revenue is from the commission it takes — typically 10 percent — on a winning bet. So the traditional practice of a casino is to keep its offerings on par with those of its competitors, lest it be left exposed to money flooding in on one side.
If, by deftly moving the line to and fro in half-point increments, the Westgate manages to attract $100,000 in bets on the Warriors and a matching $100,000 on the Thunder, it can collect its $100,000 from the losers, pay $90,000 to the winners and hold on to a $10,000 profit. It rarely works out quite that evenly, since money can land in a heap on one side or the other in the minutes before a game. And there are instances where an individual sportsbook might willingly take additional risk on one side of a game because its experts think the broader market has it wrong. But, largely, most books make a balanced ledger their goal.
“By the time we open, the offshores have been taking bets for three hours, so those are already seasoned lines,” Westgate Superbook manager Jay Kornegay said, noting that its market-setting early NFL lines are an exception to that rule. “We might throw in our two cents here or there. But, mostly, you’re going to have money come in on both sides based on that number.
“Might we react [and move the line] if we’ve all of a sudden taken a lot on one side? We might. But that’s probably going to come back mostly to one question: Who is betting? When you’re trying to figure out how much you’re taking, who is betting is the most important thing to know.”
— Bill King