- Joined ESPN in 2014
- Journalist covering gambling industry since 2008
Todd Gurley’s misstep and a missed extra point swung millions of dollars in a matter of minutes Sunday at sportsbooks around the nation.
Gurley unintentionally scored a touchdown that gave the Atlanta Falcons the lead, but also handed the ball back to Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions with one minute remaining. The Falcons were attempting to bleed the clock and kick a chip-shot field goal to win the game.
On a first-down handoff from the Detroit 10-yard line, Gurley tried to give himself up at the 1 but tumbled on the goal line for a score that, after a successful two-point conversion, put the Falcons ahead 22-16 with 1:04 to play. Stafford then drove the Lions 75 yards in eight plays, capped off by an 11-yard touchdown pass. The extra point gave Detroit an improbable 23-22 win. The Lions were one-point underdogs to the Falcons.
Two years ago Gurley stopped short of scoring a touchdown to avoid giving Aaron Rodgers the ball back in securing a win for the Los Angeles Rams over the Green Bay Packers. Gurley’s heady play in October 2018 outraged fantasy football players and bettors who needed him to score in order to cover the point spread.
“Man, forget fantasy and forget Vegas,” Gurley said after the 2018 game against the Packers “We got the win, so that’s all that matters.”
This Sunday, Gurley couldn’t hold up, and it cost one sportsbook big bucks. “That was a big, big swing for us,” Jeff Stoneback, director of MGM sportsbooks in Nevada, said. “That was a seven-figure swing [against the house].”
Most of that swing was caused by one Las Vegas bettor, who had more than $2 million in play on the NFL on Sunday with MGM, including $805,000 riding on the Lions in a series of bets that all cashed via that last-play touchdown.
While Stafford was rallying the Lions, Baker Mayfield was leading his Cleveland Browns to a comeback win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Mayfield connected with Donovan Peoples-Jones on a 24-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds left that gave Cleveland a 37-34 lead with the extra point pending. The Browns had closed as consensus 3.5-point favorites. Cleveland kicker Cody Parkey missed the extra point. Final score: Browns 37, Bengals 34.
That missed extra point was good for most sportsbooks, including a seven-figure swing in favor of the house for DraftKings and a six-figure swing in favor of the house at Station Casino sportsbooks in Nevada.
Here’s the rest of this week’s edition of Notable Bets, our weekly recap of storylines from around the sports betting industry.
• A Las Vegas bettor placed 23 NFL bets, totaling $2.56 million, with BetMGM on Sunday afternoon games. According to sportsbook representatives, the bettor won a net $2.3 million. Stoneback described the unnamed bettor as “an established player who’s played with us for years.”
“He had a very good day,” Stoneback added.
• Multiple sportsbooks suffered a losing day Sunday. “[We] got beat up pretty bad,” Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill U.S., told ESPN.
“We got beat up,” John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, told ESPN. “Too much chalk.”
Three popular favorites — the Packers, Chiefs and Buccaneers — easily covered the spreads and handed sportsbooks their worst losses of the day.
• The betting public’s love affair with the Cowboys is getting expensive. Week after week, bettors have backed the Cowboys. At William Hill U.S. books, there has been more money bet on Dallas than their opponent in six of their seven games. On Sunday, 79% of the money bet on the Dallas-Washington game was on the Cowboys.
After losing to Washington 25-3, Dallas is 0-7 against the spread. The Cowboys are only the ninth team in the Super Bowl era to fail to cover the point spread in their first seven games. The 2006 Dolphins were the most recent team to accomplish this feat, and the 2003 Raiders started 0-8 against the spread.
“The public has just kept betting Dallas,” Johnny Avello, DraftKings sportsbook director, told ESPN. “But I think that’s probably over. They’ve burned all their money.”
• The Jets covered the spread in an 18-10 loss to the Bills. It was the first time the winless Jets have covered this season.
• Sportsbook PointsBet reported taking a pair of $5,000 bets from a bettor on the Bills at the alternate point spreads of -30 (+800) and -29.5 (+600).
• On Saturday, a bettor at the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas placed a $100 bet on the Jets to win the Super Bowl at 10,000-1 odds.
• The Chiefs are around 21.5-point favorites over the Jets next week. If the line holds, the Jets — who were also 20-point underdogs to the Patriots last season — will be the first team to be 20-point underdogs in consecutive seasons since 1976-77, the expansion season for the Seahawks and Buccaneers.
• Clemson was listed as a -100,000 favorite to beat Syracuse straight up at FanDuel, one of the few U.S. sportsbooks to offer money-line odds on that game. According to a sportsbook representative, a bettor placed an $8,600 money-line bet on Clemson and won a net $8.60 when the Tigers defeated Syracuse 47-21.
• The most heavily bet college football games by state on Saturday at FanDuel sportsbooks:
New Jersey: Alabama-Tennessee
Pennsylvania: Penn State-Indiana
West Virginia: West Virginia-Texas Tech
• Notable opening lines via Circa, the first U.S. sportsbook to post weekly lines:
Ohio State (-8, 62.5) at Penn State
Michigan State at Michigan (-24, 50.5)
Texas at Oklahoma State (-4, 61.5)
Wisconsin (-9, 56.5) at Nebraska
LSU at Auburn (-2, 60.5)
Mississippi State at Alabama (-33, 64.5)
Odds and ends
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 would have turned 28 on Wednesday. The federal statute, which restricted regulated sports betting primarily to Nevada, was deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 14, 2018. Here are some numbers from what has transpired since the landmark ruling:
19: The number of states and jurisdictions with functioning legal sports betting markets: Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
4: The number of states that have passed sports betting legislation and are prepping to open for business: North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington.
13: The number of states and jurisdictions with online sports betting: Colorado, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
$2.05 billion: The amount wagered in August with U.S. sportsbooks.
4: States that have reported records for amount wagered in September: New Jersey ($748 million), Pennsylvania ($462 million), Colorado ($207.6 million) and Indiana ($207 million). The $748 million bet with New Jersey in September is the most for any single month in any state with regulated sports betting.
98.2: The percentage of the total money wagered in Colorado that was bet online.
$5.37 million: The amount wagered on table tennis in September with Colorado sportsbooks. That’s more than was bet on college football during the month.
Question No. 2: The sports betting initiative on the Maryland ballot. A “yes” vote authorizes sports and events wagering at certain licensed facilities, with state revenue intended to fund public education.
Three questions …
(with Phil Murphy, governor of New Jersey — a weekly Q&A with someone connected to the sports betting world)
Q: What does New Jersey need to do to maintain its early sports betting success, especially if New York decides to move forward with mobile sports betting?
Murphy: Since I signed legislation legalizing sports betting in June 2018, sports betting has become a growing and vibrant sector in our state’s economy. While other states may move to allow mobile sports betting, one advantage that New Jersey has is our combination of sports betting with our world-class casino and entertainment industry. Maintaining the strength of Atlantic City and our casinos will ensure that New Jersey can offer an in-person sports betting experience that will lure people from across the country.
Q: The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was signed by President George H.W. Bush 28 years ago, in Oct. 1992. At the time, it was believed that restricting regulated sports betting in the U.S. was the best approach to protecting the integrity of sports from gambling-related corruption, i.e., point-shaving or match-fixing schemes. Are you confident that state regulation of sports betting is a better approach to preventing, identifying and deterring gambling-related corruption than the previous prohibition? If so, why?
Murphy: When sports betting was prohibited at the federal level, that didn’t mean that it wasn’t happening. Instead, it was happening in an unregulated black market where many bet takers were unscrupulous, creating unnecessary risks and dangers. The best way to prevent corruption is to take sports betting out of the shadows and institute strong integrity protocols, such as New Jersey’s requirement that sportsbook operators have controls in place to identify and report unusual betting activity.
Q: One of the most successful early betting strategies this NFL season has been to bet against the Jets. So with my last question, I’d like to relay a message from bookmakers around the nation, can you please get the Jets to right the ship?
Murphy: Transparency is very important to me. Therefore I must say, as a Patriots fan, I have a conflict of interest and cannot help you with this. But I’m looking forward to getting back to Metlife Stadium and watching the Jets and Giants alongside the tens of thousands of passionate fans.
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