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With legalized sports betting throughout the U.S., where will the line originate?




Glenn examines why the end of the 'Las Vegas line' may be on the horizon and why there will not be any specific one source originating the betting line in the near future.

Is the “Las Vegas line” now a thing of the past?

We have many unsolved mysteries in life.   What came first, the chicken or the egg?  And of course, the Big Bang Theory.  Not the lame television show, but Stephen Hawking’s masterpiece theory of time’s creation.

With the May 14th SCOTUS repeal of PASPA welcoming the legalization of sports wagering to individual U.S. states we may soon have another great mystery joining them.  Where will the betting line originate for games and propositions we all will be betting upon?

The Las Vegas Line

What we most have been accustomed to over several decades in quoting sports betting lines is commonly known as “the Vegas line”.  It likely became a popular phrase because of the geographic origin of legal sports books in America and, up until a few months ago, the most common trusted starting point for bookmakers to accept wagering numbers.

The premise was simple and remains the building block concept for the sportsbook industry today.  Attempt to create the most potential balancing number to obtain even wagering possible for every game.  That would allow for a guaranteed commission or vigorish (vig) for the bookmaker to receive. 

Of course, that is not possible, which determines the constant line changes and movement determined by public demand.  The advent of online wagering and offshore wagering approximately twenty five years ago further enhanced rapid line movement.  Also, the public has a chance to seize an opportunity on a potential glitch on a poorly forecasted early wagering line.

No doubt the tremendous success of online sports betting has not only diluted the impact of the Vegas line in the media, but has softened its reputation as a catch-all phrase for what every game’s line is.  Major websites like Don Best and Vegas Insider have co-featured many Vegas sportsbooks, plus preferred offshore sportsbooks within their content for several years.

The Las Vegas line

Pioneers of the Vegas Line

Legendary Vegas strip casino hotels like the Stardust and what was then the Las Vegas Hilton (today the Westgate) were among the most respected large origins of the line. They were often quoted in newspapers and given credence by televisions pioneers like Jimmy the Greek during his CBS NFL pre-game hosting segment.  It was further enhanced by legends like Frank (Lefty) Rosenthal, known by most through his characterization in the movie Casino.  Most newspapers followed their opening line information for publication years before the Internet was born.

Subsequently, a more scientific approach was brought to the gaming industry in the early 1990’s along with online media by ground-breaking handicapper Roxy Roxborough, who founded Las Vegas Sports Consultants. Along with Kenny White, their more analytical, consultative direction formed the foundation for where game lines were traditionally accepted by most casino and betting sources. 

Where will THE line originate now?

My guess to the illusive question is like answering a query about how much a gallon of gas costs?  It largely depends on which state you’re in and the cost of oil for that moment.

In the same way with legalized sports betting anticipated to spread toward many U.S. states over the next few years, there will not be any specific ONE source naming the line to depend on or surely to quote from.   A few reasons why:

The Home Team Advantage/Disadvantage

Las Vegas or Nevada had no home team prior to last year’s NHL Golden Knights.  And with a largely tourist base penetrating their books were mostly able to negate any home team avalanche of action. That won’t be the case anymore with fans of their home team burying the line in states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania. 

This will often cause an unusual balance of action, changing the line compared to other states in the U.S. That could result in an advantage or potential disadvantage for bettors to consider.  It will also influence halftime, proposition and parlay betting, which are all popular components of all book’s wagering menus.

Another change will be the base and habits of each state’s bettors.  While Las Vegas draws a homogenous mix of the population into their sportsbooks, expect very different types of bettors within say New Jersey and West Virginia. Lines may have to be adjusted toward their specific preferences to again prioritize the primary goal - one of balanced action.

“Our Line or My Line”

The influence of the media could also shape the movement of the wagering line and perception of what each game line is accepted over the coming months.  Expect an onslaught of handicappers and handicapping shows to invade network programming, ESPN, Fox, etc. in attempt to capture a sports gambling public starving to attain some sort of inside edge.

I predict a new “Jimmy the Greek” will come forward to capture the general public’s attention and along with their opinion quote the game line for the average person to lock into their minds.  Obviously, this won’t be for every game on the board, but the most featured games, including Sunday Night Football, key NBA playoff games and the World Series. IF people buy into this hype, it could create an edge for some or a problem, depending on a new wagering culture in the U.S.

No matter what happens over the next year involving “the line”, there is one outcome that is a lock. The days of the Vegas Line are likely over.  Plus any specific one source commanding the accepted number for each game as well. 

Now more than ever, the Number One Rule makes sense for sports bettors, whether wagering in any individual U.S. sportsbook market or wagering offshore.  Make it a habit to SHOP AROUND!!  The list of preferred sportsbooks creates an easy opportunity to compare game lines and obtain your best price.  In reality, YOU make the line now. 

Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, inlcuding previews and picks from Glenn, click here.