- Nevada sportsbooks have been taking wagers on the NFL Draft since 2017.
- In most years, it attracts mostly ‘sharp’ players and few recreational bettors.
- With the worldwide sports hiatus there’s big interest in betting the NFL Draft from more casual players.
If you’re thinking that sportsbooks and bettors are making a bigger deal on the NFL Draft this year than in years past go to the head of the class. Despite the scale of the NFL Draft being reduced from a flashy spectacular on the Las Vegas Strip to a ‘virtual’ event conducted via streaming video that hasn’t dampened enthusiasm among the wagering public. By a number of metrics this will be the most heavily bet NFL Draft by a long shot.
NFL Draft wagering has been a staple of offshore sportsbooks for years but in Nevada it’s only been on the board since 2017. That’s when the Nevada Gaming Control Board revised their regulations to allow betting on ‘ancillary events’ like the NFL Draft or NBA MVP. Previously, the mandate in Nevada had been that all betting outcomes must be determined on the field of play. The change was made for competitive reasons as once PASPA fell sportsbooks elsewhere in the US began to offer this type of wager along with offshore books. After a slow and indifferent start, it looks like the NGC is doing their part to keep the Silver State bookmaking operations competitive and this is likely where that trend began.
BIG ‘PUBLIC’ INTEREST ON BETTING THE 2020 NFL DRAFT
Given the unprecedented circumstances of the sports world coming to a near standstill due to the international Coronavirus pandemic this isn’t a big surprise. With so few events on the board sportsbooks have been forced to get creative and for the most part bettors have responded. Some like BetOnline.ag have been very proactive about it sponsoring their own events–in the case of BOL it is the ‘Quarantine Eating Challenge’ in conjunction with Major League Eating. Other sportsbooks have been running their own ‘virtual sports’ matchups on games like NHL 2020 and Madden NFL 20 broadcast on the Twitch streaming platform.
In Nevada, the Gaming Control Board has been approving events that previously haven’t been seen in Silver State sportsbooks. Table tennis was quickly approved for wagering after the spate of sports going on hiatus and has actually been the biggest event in terms of handle during the shutdown. The NGC quickly approved the eNASCAR virtual racing tournament for wagering and more recently the WNBA Draft. The NGC hasn’t always been easy to work with in the effort to approve new events for the betting board but they’ve done an excellent job of late. Hopefully, that will continue post pandemic.
THE 2020 NFL DRAFT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A HUGE EVENT IN LAS VEGAS
The Las Vegas Strip is strangely quiet right now with only subtle hints of the traffic and activity usually seen there. It’s a good metaphor for Nevada’s gaming industry which is in a state of near shutdown right now. This is clearly putting a strain on casinos large and small with the biggest Strip properties losing an estimated $799,000 a day plus in gaming profits alone. Only a few properties have even a trickle of revenue and the ones that do have sports betting to thank. Four mobile apps remain in operation in Nevada–Circa Sports, William Hill, MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment. Credit them for keeping the virtual doors open in such challenging circumstances.
The NFL Draft was planned to be a huge event for the league and a nice showcase for Las Vegas as ‘Sin City’ joins the pro football fraternity. A legit spectacular was planned with an outdoor stage near the Bellagio Fountains and expected to draw a sizable live crowd. Although the planned live draft events in Las Vegas were scrapped on March 16 due to the Coronavirus pandemic the city is getting at least some marginal benefit out of it. Even in ‘virtual’ form, the 2020 NFL Draft is expected to be the biggest single betting event since the sports shutdown began and easily the most heavily bet NFL Draft in history.
Typically, sportsbooks in Nevada and elsewhere have a hard time making any profit on the NFL Draft due to the lopsided amount of ‘sharp’ action taken. In an article on ESPN by the essential David Purdum that is put into perspective by Jeff Davis, Director of Trading for Caesars Sportsbook:
“Generally speaking, you don’t take one square dollar [on draft props]. And you get absolutely throttled.”
That appears to be different this year with bookmakers all over the map reporting heavier than usual draft betting including a good amount of ‘public’ money. Australian sportsbook PointsBet, a recent entrant into the US market, indicated that the draft has attracted a similar amount of action as a Monday Night NFL game. Purdum’s article also noted that unlike a MNF game the action looks to be lopsided toward recreational bettors who typically make a larger number of smaller bets. In sportsbooks of Nevada and New Jersey, they’re talking 10 times the amount usually bet on the NFL Draft. Offshore, there are reports of even heavier action.
So what are the bettors backing? First of all, you’re going to have a tough time finding value at this stage of the game. On the other hand, bookmakers admit that making a solid line on NFL Draft props isn’t easy. Do with that information what you will. At VSIN, Josh Appelbaum (who is a daily must-read for the serious sports bettor) reports that Joe Burrow and Chase Young look to be a lock for the first two picks. Tua Tagovailoa’s stock is dropping while Oregon QB’s Justin Herbert. Here’s a tip from yours truly–Utah State QB Jordan Love will go in the first round though it will be late. A lot of ways to play this such as the ‘Under Draft Pick 19.5 -190’ prop at BetOnline.ag.