By scoring a last-second touchdown to defeat Alabama, 35-31, in Monday’s national championship game, the Tigers didn’t just deal the Crimson Tide a huge loss. They inflicted major damage on Las Vegas sports books, as well.
According to Todd Dewey, who covers sports betting for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Westgate, Wynn and MGM Resorts reported six-figure losses. William Hill, which has 108 sports books in Nevada, lost more than $1 million in what the British bookmaker said was the worst loss on any single game in the company’s U.S. history.
“It was as bad as a result as humanly possible,” William Hill’s director of trading, Nick Bogdanovich, told ESPN on Tuesday. The beating Vegas took was the result of a lopsided amount of betting on Clemson, which not only won outright as a sizable underdog but whose repeated rallies from deficits against Alabama’s vaunted defense led to paydays for everyone who bet the over, which was set at 51.
That apparently was a lot of people, and interestingly, this was a case where the “squares” came out well ahead of the professional sports bettors. “The public was all over Clemson from the moment it beat Ohio State 31-0 in the CFP semifinal,” Dewey said in an email exchange Tuesday with The Post.
“It’s very unusual for the public to load up on the underdog in a title game and even rarer for the books to root for Alabama,” Dewey said. The most recent comparable example, according to the journalist, came back in 2006, when most of the action came in for Texas, even though the Longhorns were 7-point underdogs to USC in the BCS title game at the Rose Bowl. Sure enough, Texas vindicated its supporters, and put a hurting on Vegas, with a 41-38 triumph.
Clemson’s win “was one of the worst college football losses we’ve ever had, definitely one of the top three,” MGM sports book manager Jeff Stoneback told CBS Sports. This despite the fact that bookmakers did what they could during the preceding week to even out the action.
“Alabama opened as a 7-point favorite, it was quickly bet down to 6.5 because of the avalanche of Clemson money and closed at 6 at most places,” Dewey said. “There also was a ton of money-line support on the Tigers to win outright. This caused the books to keep lowering the price.”
Dewey noted that Alabama closed at minus-210 on the money line, despite the fact that “most 6.5-point favorites are typically minus-250 or 260.” Clemson closed at plus-180, meaning that a bet of $100 on the Tigers returned a payout of $180, when something around $240 would normally be expected.
“The money I had on the Clemson money line overwhelmed everything else,” Johnny Avello, executive director at the Wynn race and sports book, said to ESPN. Bill Sattler, an executive with Caesars Entertainment, told the website that Clemson’s high-scoring victory resulted in “the worst loss in any college football game I can remember.”
In fact, interest in the College Football Playoff final was so high that it even brought in more betting than was placed on any of the NFL’s opening-weekend playoff games. “Bookmakers estimated the handle for the [Clemson-Alabama] game at around $20 million, which is one of the highest handles ever in Nevada for a college football title game,” Dewey said.
Before the game, a Westgate sports book manager had told Dewey, “Even though a couple professional groups are on the favorite, the public is so strong on Clemson. The public may win out on this.”
The public won in a big way, meaning that the Tigers’ triumph caused raucous celebrations to break out in many more places than just Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium. As it turned out, that also meant Vegas sports books took a bath, but they’ll undoubtedly find a way to clean up on future mega-events. After all, the Super Bowl is right around the corner.