College Football Wagers Beat NFL Bets at Vegas Sportsbooks

College Football Betting - NFL Sports Betting

Betting on the BCS final four playoffs will match up against NFL playoff betting in early 2018.

College football betting is overtaking NFL betting at Las Vegas sportsbooks this year. The trend is still emerging and anecdotal, but it appears to be tied in part to the National Football League’s struggles in public perceptions and ratings.

Jimmy Vaccaro of the South Point Casino’s sportsbook in Las Vegas says he’s seen three weekends this football season in which betting on college football has surpassed pro football betting. One week at the South Point, the NCAA’s turnover surpassed the NFL’s action by $400,000.

Bookmakers are quick to point out professional football still has the edge, but even the old-timers say, prior to this year, they have never seen a weekend when NCAA football beat the NFL in gambling volume.

When asked by the New York Times about the betting margin between NFL and NCAA football this season, Vaccaro said, “It’s been a 60-40 split, but the colleges are gaining.”

$5 Billion a Year Industry

It is significant which sport gets the action. Las Vegas sports betting generates nearly $5 billion a year. Betting on football represents 37% of that revenue, which is (by far) the most of any sport.

If a US Supreme Court decision expected in early 2018 strikes down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, the betting handle across the nation could be much bigger. The American Gaming Association claims unlicensed sports betting generates about 97% of all bookmaker revenues in the United States each year.

If that happens, then it will increase interest in college and pro football. Legal sports betting in dozens of states would increase television viewership, increase TV ratings, and increase the amount of television revenue each sport would receive. If NCAA football overtakes the NFL, it would represent billions going to one sport or the other.

“Their Product Isn’t Very Good Right Now”

Nick Bogdanovich, the head bookmaker for William Hill USA, which owns 107 Nevada sportsbooks, echoes what Jimmy Vaccaro has said. The NCAA appears to be overtaking the NFL, at least at the moment. Bogdanovich said of the NFL, “Frankly, their product isn’t very good right now.”

Bogdanovich points out key injuries this season, like the one to Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. The truth is, though, the NFL has had a tumultuous past 16 months. Since August 2016, the NFL has seen the kneeling controversy started by Colin Kaepernick growing to league-wide proportions. Last year, it has seen the retirement of Peyton Manning and the 4-game ban of Tom Brady. This year, it has seen Aaron Rodgers lose half-a-season to injury, while Ezekiel Elliott’s 6-game ban and the litigation it inspired led to countless scandal-ridden news stories.

Issues Plaguing the NFL

In that time, the concussion issue continued to grow, as more players have retired due to concussions and more studies have been conducted for CTE. US President Donald Trump has criticized the NFL for its lack of discouragement for players who kneel, while more players on certain teams have kneeled before the National Anthem each week. Owners have weighed in on either side of the issue, while owners meetings have led to disputes between NFL luminaries — whether it is owners, players, or executives. The contract extention for Commissioner Roger Goodell has been toxic, as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has threatened a lawsuit to block the extension.

In short, the NFL’s top stars are seeing a changing of the guard at a time when scandal seems to cling to the league. The NFL’s ratings were down nearly 15% in 2016, but they’re down another 9% in 2017. That kind of regression has caused a lot of stress with owners, who are beginning to point fingers.

Why Bettors Prefer NCAA over NFL

The NFL used to be the “Teflon League”, but Roger Goodell’s decision to dramatically increase suspensions for misconduct have led to a constant barrage of controversies and scandals in the sports news. That caused player unrest, while keeping the league’s dirty laundry in the news almost year-round. Players kneeling for the National Anthem touched off a backlash, one which seems to have turned off some sports bettors at Las Vegas sportsbooks.

The college football game has not dealt with most of those same issues. It is easier for the NCAA and college football programs to deal with disciplinary actions than a pro sport can. Whether fans or gamblers, many people enjoy sports for the escapist aspect of it: it takes them away from the cares and worries of the everyday. The NFL seems too much like ‘real life’ these days. College football is a sport that is similar enough to provide an alternative.

Avello: “You Can Find an Edge There”

John Avello of the Wynn Las Vegas said that some sports bettors see opportunity in college football wagers. Avello said he “trust his gut” when it comes to NFL games, because it is physically mature, adult athletes with a pro-level of preparation for the games. College football is hard to set lines for, because of the sheer number of games, the fact it involves 19- and 20-year old athletes, and it often involves mismatches.

Avello said, “There’s more volatility and room for mistakes in the college game. You can find an edge there, and that is what gamblers do. We are hard to beat when it comes to the NFL.”

Westgate SuperBook Betting Trends

Jay Kornegay of the Westgate SuperBook, the largest sportsbook in Las Vegas, said he has seen numerous weeks this year where his clerks take more bets on NCAA games than NFL games. Kornegay said that the college football schedule has more betting options, often with more than 50 games on the schedule — as opposed to 16 or fewer in the NFL weekend.

The NCAA games are spread from Tuesday night to Saturday night. The Westgate’s bookmaker noted that smartphone betting apps take a lot of the stigma and inconvenience out of making a sports bet anymore. Kornegay said, “You no longer have to tell your wife you are going out for milk to get a bet down. It’s right on the phone for you.”