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Books avoid All-Star drubbing

Books avoid All-Star drubbing

Books avoid All-Star drubbing

LAS VEGAS – After hosting the NBA All-Star Weekend, Las Vegas came out a winner in every conceivable way. The exposure for the city was unprecedented, and anyone who watched any of the festivities on TNT had to come away feeling that the whole extravaganza was a tourism infomercial. It was truly a case of Las Vegas putting on another show, and the city did it in the only way it knows how - over the top. The crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center was more star-studded than the the one at Academy Awards, and the stories are just starting to filter in about the big money being thrown around the casinos.

My job is to look at things from a sports betting perspective. A lot has been made about how Nevada gave in to the NBA's request to take the game off the betting boards. The conventional wisdom all along was that the casinos felt that giving up what money could be made in booking the game would be far outweighed by all the ancillary income from hosting the All-Stars and their entourages and fans. That's certainly true, especially since the All-Star Game isn't a big betting event, but the books actually came out smelling like a rose because it's very possible that they saved themselves a lot of money by not booking the game.

At offshore sports books, the West opened as a 3 1/2-point favorite over the East with a total of 255. The lines closed at West -4 1/2 and a total of 256o1/2 at Pinnacle and CRIS. The money was clearly on the favorite and the over in the offshore world, and I can tell you from experience that that's nothing compared to what would have happened if lines were available in Las Vegas. The public tends to bet the favorite and the over in general, and it's almost always the case that the favorite/over parlay is the worst-case scenario for bookmakers, and that's usually even more pronounced in Vegas with a higher concentration of unsophisticated bettors. If the people here had been able to bet at their hotels before going to the game, it's practically certain that they would have backed the favored West and been cheering for a lot of scoring in a game that is known for a lack of defensive effort.

With the West winning 153-132, there's no doubt that the sports books dodged a bullet.

Some more notes from a betting perspective:

* If you thought Sunday's game was a blowout, it still doesn't compare to the Rookies vs. Sophomores game on Friday night at Mandalay Bay. Offshore books had the Sophomores as an 11-point favorite and they romped to a 155-114 victory.

* Okay, so there was no legal betting on the game or any of the related events over the weekend, so it's impossible to quantify how much was wagered illegally on anything. But if I had to guess the highest handle, I would go with the Charles Barkley vs. Dick Bavetta race as part of All-Star Saturday Night. Everyone seemed to have an opinion on whether the race would be won by the 43-year-old overweight former athlete or the current 67-year-old referee who runs five to eight miles a day. Barkley led start to finish over the 3o1/2-court race and mockingly backpedaled the last several yards as Bavetta dived in vain for the finish line. I don't think my eyes were deceiving me, but watching on TV, I could have sworn I saw some people reaching for their wallets in the crowd shots after the race concluded. It was probably the most bet event in bars across the country. One last thought on that: It was a nice plug for horse racing that Bavetta chose to refer to Barkley as War Admiral and himself as Seabiscuit in interviews leading up to the match race.

* Along the lines of no betting (wink, wink), TNT commentators Doug Collins and Steve Kerr talked about having a bet on who would win the MVP during Sunday's game.

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