NFL gambling primer before season kicks off

LAS VEGAS — With single-game sports betting now legal and operational in 23 states (hello, Wyoming) and Canada, it’s difficult to drive through three consecutive states without the ability to place a wager. The sports betting market has grown exponentially since legalization in 2018 and continues to grow at a rapid pace ($20 billion is estimated to be legally wagered in the U.S. on NFL and college football this season, per PlayUSA).

New Jersey has emerged as the biggest market for sports betting, a title that it may cede if New York does indeed have mobile sports betting next year. The increased competition has led to more regionalization of sports betting and more options for bettors.

Let’s take a look at the expanded markets for bettors, what respected money has wagered so far in the NFL and what bookmakers (and the public) think of the Giants and Jets.

Increased innovation

This season, WynnBet was the first sportsbook to offer a market for exact win totals for NFL teams, before other sportsbooks followed suit. Typically, bettors can wager whether an NFL team will win over or under a certain number of games. The Giants’ win total, for example, is 7 at DraftKings Sportsbook (the Jets’ is 6). WynnBet was the first book to offer bettors the ability to wager on how many wins the Giants would have exactly — +325 for eight wins, 4/1 for nine wins and 10/1 for five wins are among the options.

A Jets and Giants fan watching a game in a sportsbook in Atlantic City.
A Jets and Giants fan watching a game in a sportsbook in Atlantic City.

“From my early days behind the counter in a sportsbook, tourists were always asking, ‘Can I bet my team to win 10 games this season?’ ” said Alan Berg, senior trading manager at WynnBet. “You don’t know what to expect when you create something like this, but we learned a lot being first to market and it’s a fun market. I think it will be much better pricing next year.”

Differing regulations among states have allowed markets previously only seen in offshore books such as, “Which team will Aaron Rodgers take his first snap of 2021 for?” or “Which team will Cam Newton play for next?” And the proliferation of fantasy football has led to an increase in player prop markets offered for nearly every game (Over/Under 256.5 passing yards for Daniel Jones in a game, for example).

Bettors have more variety of legal wagering options for NFL games than ever before, and should take advantage.

“We’ve got some cool props planned for Week 1,” Berg said. “Definitely expect us to have some unique markets.”

Regional biases becoming apparent

What if I told you that one of BetMGM’s biggest futures liabilities entering the season is the Detroit Lions to win the NFC? Given a new coach in Dan Campbell and new quarterback in Jared Goff, it might seem improbable, but bettors have been willing to back the Lions at 100/1 to win the NFC. In Michigan, the Lions have the most bets of any NFL team to win the Super Bowl at BetMGM (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the most money wagered, both in Michigan and across the U.S. at BetMGM).

At the South Point in Las Vegas, though, sportsbook director Chris Andrews knows Las Vegas Raiders money is going to flow in constantly.

“Guys have been pouring in on the Raiders,” Andrews said, laughing, “Pretty big action at pretty big prices, they are by far our worst result.”

Public bettors have been backing the Raiders Over 7 wins, while the wiseguys have been fading Jon Gruden’s team and hitting the Under.

It’s not the same at every sportsbook in Vegas, as the New England Patriots are the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook’s biggest Super Bowl liability, mostly due to a $15,000 wager at 40/1 odds.

And the story is similar at The Borgata in New Jersey with the Giants.

“The Giants are our biggest Super Bowl liability,” said Thomas Gable, director of race and sports book at The Borgata. “We have by far the most tickets written on them. Surprisingly, the Minnesota Vikings are second.

“We always see Giants and Jets money, but this year it’s insane the amount of Giants money we’re getting. Last week was the first Giants Under bet I took.”

Bookmakers’ expectations for Jets, Giants

Neither the Giants nor the Jets are expected to be playoff teams, with bookmakers setting their win totals below .500. And after speaking with several bookmakers, their expectations generally aren’t too high.

The Jets and Giants in their preseason opener on Aug. 14, 2021.
The Jets and Giants in their preseason opener on Aug. 14, 2021.
Bill Kostroun/New York Post

“If I were wagering, I’d look at the Giants Under,” Gable told VSiN. “The NFC East is probably the worst division in football, but a lot of things still need to be proven with the offensive line, and Daniel Jones played in only one preseason game.”

“There’s a part of me that thinks the Giants might not be as bad as people think,” Berg said. “But that O-line makes me a little nervous from what we saw in the preseason.”

Oddly enough, bettors are backing Jones to throw often, as he is The Borgata’s biggest liability to lead the NFL in passing yards. Jones’ odds have dropped from 150/1 to 66/1.

“I thought the Giants had a chance to be a contender before preseason,” Andrews said, “but they might be worse than advertised.”

Ed Salmons, vice president of risk at SuperBook Sports, also noted the amount of uncertainty surrounding this particular Giants team: “If Saquon Barkley comes back, and if Kenny Golladay can stay healthy and if Jones has no turnovers … there are so many ifs with the Giants.”

Optimism is a great thing, and Jets fans have plenty of it heading into the season with new quarterback Zach Wilson and new coach Robert Saleh at the helm. The sentiment is somewhat optimistic from bookmakers, it’s simply a lack of talent that will likely hold Gang Green back.

“The Jets probably go down as one of the greatest improved coaching situations in league history,” Salmons joked. “Going from Adam Gase to anyone is such an improvement. I’ve liked Zach Wilson so far, he’s looked good but he’s just a kid.”

“I think the Jets may be a little better than people think,” Andrews said. “I’m always skeptical of new coaches, since they sound great on the way in and not so great on the way out. I like Wilson as a QB. [I] think they could win six or seven games.”

New York Post

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