For decades, there was a long-standing rule about sports betting in Nevada.
For all the exotic prop wagers and sky-high betting limits that make Nevada's sports books a paradise for fans with a taste for gambling, it was always a rule that bets had to be on events that were settled on the field of play.
Whether football or horseracing or even poker, state gaming regulations required that the event had to be a live-action competition.
No Academy Awards bets. No election bets, either.
Fairly recently, there have been some minor exceptions to the "live action" rule, with betting allowed in some sports award categories, such as Super Bowl MVPs and Cy Young Awards. However, that pervasive rule about limiting wagers to events that are decided on the field of play was tweaked in a significant way last year by the Nevada Gaming Control Board when it approved wagering at the state's sports books on the NFL Draft.
Apparently, the sports books have to design ever-new ways to entice action.
This year, the state gaming board expanded the range of wagers for the NFL Draft. The 2018 draft is being held at A&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, April 26-28.
Last year, there were 16 bets, and the bets could not be specific to a certain player. For instance, a typical wager was whether more offensive or defensive players would be taken during the first round.
This year, there are 32 categories of bets, and some of those wagers include specific players, such as whether quarterback X will be drafted ahead of running back Z. And to level the wagering field (the way a point spread does), if quarterback X is widely predicted to be selected higher than running back Z, the bet may propose: quarterback X (with a draft position handicap) versus running back Z.
So here's a sample of bets permitted in Nevada on the NFL Draft:
The number of players drafted from a particular college in round one.
More players drafted from conference X than conference Y in round one.
Over/Under on the number of quarterbacks drafted in rounds one and two.
Over/Under on the number of offensive players drafted in rounds one and two.
Player X or player Y drafted first with odds.
You get the idea.
An interesting angle to all this is that it places new emphasis on the prognostications of draft gurus, such as Baltimore's Mel Kiper Jr., and it certainly creates more incentive for fans to pay attention to the draft seers.
Early this month, some of the larger Las Vegas sports books had not yet posted specific odds for the NFL Draft, but fans could still get a feel for the betting climate by perusing online offshore odds websites.
Quarterbacks Sam Darnold (USC) and Josh Allen (Wyoming) and running back Saquon Barkley (Penn State) were the favorites to go at the top of the first round at some odds websites.
However, the draft is extremely fluid. After all, the No. 1 pick overall could change hands in a trade, and that may change the priority attached to the selection.
While the NFL Draft gives Vegas' sports book another product to offer, Jay Kornegay, who runs the race and sports SuperBook at the Westgate Las Vegas Casino & Resort, said in an email, "Last year, we had some interest, but it didn't move the needle."
To be fair, the concept was new (meaning unfamiliar) last year, and the wagering didn't include specific players. Draft prop betting may need some time to catch on with bettors.
However, down the road, Las Vegas -- as a new NFL city -- is also in line for the traveling NFL Draft show. That could happen as soon as next year or in 2020, when the Raiders start playing there.
That's the sort of happening that will definitely move the draft's wagering needle.
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Just as Las Vegas sports books are trying new wagering products to attract customers, so are daily fantasy sports websites.
One new wrinkle that debuted during the NFL playoffs was the introduction of contests that feature players from just one real game.
For baseball, DraftKings calls the contest type that features a single game a "Showdown."
The concept is fairly simple.
On DraftKings, the DFS player has six lineup spots to fill, regardless of position (pitchers are included), while staying within a certain salary cap. A lineup must include at least one player from each real team, and lineups must not have more than four hitters from any one team. The FanDuel baseball version requires a five-player lineup (no pitchers), assembled within a salary cap, consisting of an infielder, outfielder and three more players of any position. One player is a designated "MVP," and that player accumulates points at a rate of 1.5-times the others. The lineup must include players from both teams.
The concept has a couple of appeals.
The single-game format is extremely simple and requires far less time to compose a lineup in contrast to a conventional DFS contest, where the player selection is more complex because it approximates an actual baseball lineup. And to follow the results of their contest, DFS customers only have to focus on that one real game.
Whether single-game contests will attract a significant following of casual sports fans because of all that simplicity remains to be seen.
Issue 243: April 2018