As the saying goes, “The House always wins.” But that assumes sporting events will always go on. Of course, that’s not the case right now with the Coronavirus pandemic causing cancellations and postponements of most athletic contests. For Las Vegas sports books, the timing couldn’t have been worse.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Nevada sports books made $36.5 million in college and pro basketball last March with the majority of that coming from the $350 bet on the NCAA Tournament. So with COVID-19 brining a different kind of March madness this year, the gaming industry is scrambling.
“It’s unprecedented times so we’re doing what we can with not a lot to work with,” Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sports operations at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, told the Times. “We’ve actually added five soccer leagues to the menu today and we’re adding the KHL hockey playoffs.”
The Masters doesn’t get as much action as the NCAA Tournament, but it’s in a league of its own in terms of generating gambling. And following its postponement, Westgate is bracing to refund all bets that have been made on the year’s first major due to their previous stipulation that the tournament begin within eight days of the scheduled start date of April 9.
“It’s disappointing on a lot of ends,” SuperBook VP of risk management and golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman told Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Some players had much better numbers on them (when the pool opened) compared to where it is now.”
But, he added, “We understand [the postponement] in light of what’s going on.”
With a lot of money about to be refunded, Sherman and Westgate hope to create a new cash flow by opening a new Masters betting pool. This time, the stipulation is that the tournament has to be played some time in 2020. Sherman first posted these new and updated Masters odds on Saturday:
These are pretty similar to the most recent Westgate odds, but there are a few notable changes. Rory McIlroy remains the favorite, but he’s been slightly downgraded from 8/1 to 10/1. In contrast, Sherman moved defending Masters champ Tiger Woods from 20/1 to 16/1. Woods recently withdrew from both the Players Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational, citing back issues, so the rumored October date for a tournament at Augusta National would give the 44-year-old more time to heal.
Also, Hideki Matsuyama, who held a two-shot lead after an opening 63 at TPC Sawgrass before play was canceled, jumped from 40/1 to 30/1. The Japanese star had to settle for splitting half of the record $15 million purse with everyone in the field at the Players, regardless of what they shot.
Usually now would be the time we give our thoughts on which golfers present good value. Instead, we’re just hoping this batch of bets doesn’t have to be refunded as well.