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Falcons, Jaguars save books from 'ugly' Sunday

16th December, 20:11

Liability was building late Sunday morning behind the counter at the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas.

The betting public was hot. Favorites were winning and mostly covering the spread, including the heavily-bet Patriots and Buccaneers. The Eagles had just scored a fluke touchdown to cover the spread on the last play of a win over Washington, turning what would've been a decent win into another loser for the SuperBook. When the early games were over, favorites had won seven of eight games, going 6-1-1 against the spread.

"I was like, 'This thing is snowballing a bit,'" SuperBook chief Jay Kornegay said. "It's always concerning when you lose like that in the morning, because then you can be facing one of those really ugly days."

If the run of favorites continued during the afternoon slate, Kornegay feared the SuperBook would suffer one of its largest single-day losses ever. He wasn't alone. Sportsbooks around Las Vegas found themselves in a hole that had the potential to get a lot deeper.

"Fortunately for us, as it happens many weekends, things turn and start to go our way a little bit, and that's exactly what we got," Kornegay said.

Underdogs went 4-1 straight-up and ATS in the afternoon slate, highlighted by outright upset wins by the underdog Jaguars and Falcons that eliminated much of the parlay liability that had built up. The SuperBook won 95% of the parlay money bet on the Falcons' win over the 49ers and climbed back to near break-even.

"If you were going to tell me that we were going to break even after the morning games, I would've taken it," Kornegay said.

Here are the notable bets from a week featuring multiple Sunday bad beats, a 20th state moving into position to offer sports betting and an uncanny college football streak continuing.

The line on Philadelphia-Washington grew from Eagles -4.5 to -6.5 last week. In a close, back-and-forth game, the Eagles weren't covering the spread at any point in the game -- until linebacker Nigel Bradham scooped up Dwayne Haskins' fumble, rumbled 47 yards and dove into the end zone for a touchdown as time expired for a 37-27 win.

"That last-second Eagles play ended up costing us dearly," Tom Gable, sportsbook director at The Borgata, in Atlantic City, New Jersey told ESPN. "The entire book erupted when that play took place."

Thirty minutes before kickoff, the South Point took a $55,000 bet on the Eagles -6.5, according to oddmaker Jimmy Vaccaro.

eff Davis, head of risk at Caesars Sportsbook, estimated the Eagles covering the spread on the last play caused a low-six-figure swing against the house and created a significant liability on parlay bets heading into the late afternoon games.

Tony DiTommaso, head of risk at Las Vegas sportsbook operator CG Technology, said the Eagles' last touchdown caused roughly a $150,000 swing against the book.

The Falcons' 29-22 upset of the 49ers produced the biggest win of the day for Caesars Sportsbook. "That was massive," Caesars senior oddsmaker Alan Berg said. "We won almost as much money on that game as we took on Jags-Raiders."

Atlanta scored two touchdowns in the final eight seconds to pull off the upset, with the Falcons' second score coming on a fumble recovery of a botched multi-lateral kickoff return by San Francisco that pushed the game over the total of 49.5.

A bettor at a The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas won a $200, nine-team parlay that included the Eagles -4.5 and the over in Falcons-49ers. The bettor won $75,000.

Lopsided Sunday

The betting action overall was more lopsided than normal at sportsbooks around the nation. At Rivers (SugarHouse) sportsbooks in Indiana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the Patriots attracted 99.4% of the money wagered on the money-line against the Cincinnati Bengals. New England was one of six teams that attracted better than 90% of the money-line action.

"Overall, very lopsided betting this weekend," Mattias Statz, COO of the Rivers-SugarHouse sportsbooks, told ESPN. "And it looks like bettors won across the board."

More money was bet on Rams-Cowboys than any other of the afternoon games at The Borgata, thanks in part to a last-minute big bet on the Rams. "We were pretty even on both sides," Gable said, "and then I received a call from a high-limit customer who was racing down from Brooklyn to get down in time for the game. He ended up really tipping the balance on the game and making us Cowboys fans for the day. He ended up making it in with about four minutes to spare before kickoff."

"We had three large casino players [VIPs] in, and they were all over the board with the teasers and the parlays," Jeff Stoneback, sportsbook director for MGM in Nevada, said. "You throw them out, and the public did [well]. We were just fortunate to have those guys on the wrong side."

Sportsbooks were rooting for the Steelers in Sunday's prime-time game against the Bills, who closed as 1-point underdogs and beat Pittsburgh 17-10, sealing what was characterized as a break-even or small losing day for several sportsbooks.

Burrow buries books

* LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, a 200-1 long shot over the summer, won the Heisman Trophy on Sunday and did enough damage to cause some bookmakers to re-examine their approach to booking college football's most prestigious individual award.

"Burrow was pretty bad for us," John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook, told ESPN. "Close to six figures, not as bad as Lamar Jackson was in 2016, but a big loser for that pool."

Murray said the SuperBook plans to adjust the odds in the coming years on the Heisman Trophy and NFL MVP, specifically on quarterbacks. "It's all about the quarterbacks," he added. "The other positions can't win these awards anymore. We just need to be more careful with how high we set the odds on QBs, try to encourage action on other positions."

* In July, two Atlantic City sportsbooks took $300 bets on Burrow at 100-1. According to online sports betting secondary market PropSwap, the same bettor -- a 31-year-old professional bettor and former Las Vegas resident -- also bet on Burrow in Las Vegas: $300 at 75-1 at the South Point sportsbook. The bettor, however, elected to sell the South Point ticket on PropSwap prior to the LSU-Alabama game for $8,625.

Army-Navy betting

* The Army-Navy game went under the total (42) for the 14th consecutive meeting, with the Midshipmen beating the Black Knights 31-7.

* More money was bet on the Army-Navy game at Rivers' (SugarHouse) sportsbooks than was bet on last week's SEC Championship Game.

Semifinal action

* MGM's Stoneback said he received an inquiry about placing a "very large wager" on Ohio State, which faces Clemson in one College Football Playoff semifinal on Dec. 28. Ohio State is a 2-point underdog.

The Buckeyes bet had not been placed as of Sunday, but Stoneback said he wouldn't be surprised if it showed up eventually. "It's somebody who has bet with in the past, somebody that likes to bet the Ohio teams from that area," Stoneback added.

Sports betting expansion

Multiple states released sports betting revenue reports for November this week:

* $562.6 million was bet in November with New Jersey sportsbooks, which won a net $32.9 million.

* $147.2 million was bet in November with Indiana sportsbooks, which won a net $9.2 million.

* $59.3 million was bet in November with Iowa sportsbooks, which won a net $3.59 million.

* Michigan became the 20th state to pass sports betting legislation. The bill, which will allow online and retail sports betting, was sent to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week, who is expected to sign it before the end of the year.

* MLB: The Texas Rangers' odds to win the World Series improved form 100-1 to 40-1 at Caesars Sportsbook, after acquiring Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber in a blockbuster trade. The Indians' World Series odds lengthened from 18-1 to 30-1 at Caesars.

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