Vegas sports might finally be getting in on the Big Four sports leagues, but the effect of sporting events in the city on the betting industry is well known.
Sports betting has been a staple in Las Vegas for more than half a century, but the recent addition of the National Hockey League’s Vegas Golden Knights and the future relocation of the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders raises questions about how much those teams might boost betting action.
Those teams will continue to shine a brighter light on Nevada and offer a bigger push in wagers, but sporting events have long been a boon to the sports betting industry in Las Vegas. In short, the ability to bet on sporting events taking place in the city isn’t new.
“We’ve always been a hub for boxing, a hub for [Mixed Martial Arts],” said Jason Simbal, CG Technology Sportsbooks vice president. “We’ve hosted an NBA All-Star Game. A lot of professional athletes come through this town.
“And because we’re a tourism hub with legalized betting, we’ve been dealing with these sports and fan bases for years.”
The same idea goes for UNLV, the original Vegas sports team.
When events are hosted in Las Vegas, they bring in more money. Take a standard UFC fight.
“When UFC fights are here, the handle is larger,” Simbal said. “Conor McGregor will draw well no matter where, but to have a standard UFC card in Las Vegas versus that same card anywhere else, the handle will be way more for us. People are here to go to the event, and they want to bet on it.”
Historically, the same results have applied to most boxing cards. Even non-mainstream boxing events in Las Vegas will bring incredible numbers to a sportsbook.
That same logic transferred to the Golden Knights’ historic first season on the ice at T-Mobile Arena.
“We’ve done bigger handles for the home games than road games,” Simbal said. “The books are on The Strip, the arena is on The Strip, so we’re filled with people who are coming down to watch the game.”
As for the general effect of having a Vegas sports team in one of the major leagues, it too brings in an added benefit to the sportsbooks.
“The hockey handle since the Golden Knights joined the league is about 2.5 times better per game,” Simbal said. “On top of that, we’re doing more of a percentage on the Golden Knights than any other team.
“We can also see it. When the Knights played Minnesota, The Strip was all Minnesota fans in jerseys.”
The excitement for hockey took a while to build, but as the team coasted through the first month of the season and catapulted to the top of the Pacific Division in December, betting has come along with the city’s unabashed excitement for their only professional team. The Golden Knights making it to the Stanley Cup Final only further cemented the team’s place in the hearts of many Las Vegans.
For the Raiders, however, betting on the team skyrocketed after it was announced they would be joining the Vegas sports scene.
“We talk about information causing people to bet all the time, and just because they announced they were moving, there was an initial rush to bet on the Raiders,” Simbal said. “At one point near the announcement, they were the second choice in future odds, just because there was all of a sudden a connection to this city and they were coming off a good year.
“Then fans realized it was still years away and the team lost six in a row and the betting slowed dramatically.”
Still, CG personnel think there’s something to the Vegas Born slogan the Golden Knights trotted out.
“It’s different when the team is built from nothing as opposed to moving an existing team here,” Simbal said. “The Raiders are the Raiders, they have this storied history with these crazy fans. But the Golden Knights are homegrown, and there’s a difference.”
The Golden Knights went from a 500-1 long shot to a Stanley Cup finalist in their first season, but it’s yet to be seen if the homegrown effect will change future odds even though the team isn’t performing as well on the ice.
The glory days of UNLV basketball are in the past, but there’s still hometown favoritism for the Rebels.
“UNLV is underpriced because they’ve been bad,” Simbal said. “They should be 5,000-1, and instead they’re 200-1 preseason. Texas Tech was 300-1 in the preseason, and they went on to be ranked all year.
“You definitely see the local effect on odds. People bet on the games they go to because it adds excitement to the game.”