David Purdum, ESPN Staff WriterDec 5, 2023, 12:00 PM ET
The successful run of NFL favorites that began Thanksgiving Day continued to produce winners for the betting public through this weekend before coming to a crashing halt in prime time.
In Week 12, favorites covered the spread in 12 games, tied for the most ever in a single week. It resulted in the best week of the season for bettors, according to the bookmakers.
The betting public, as per usual, backed the favorites again Sunday, loading up parlays with popular favorites — the San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions — to win straight-up and to cover the spread. Favorites won nine of the first 10 games outright, covering the spread in eight of them to keep many of those long shot parlays alive entering the night game between the Chiefs and Packers.
Kansas City was a 5.5-point road favorite and attracted upward of 80% of the bets at some sportsbooks. The game became one of the biggest decisions of the season for sportsbooks.
“If the Chiefs win and cover, it’s going to be pretty ugly,” John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook in Las Vegas, told ESPN on Sunday night as the late game kicked off.
Caesars Sportsbook said it was facing enough parlay liability tied to the Chiefs to make the day its most expensive Sunday of the season for the second week in a row.
“Just sit back and hope for the Packers to keep it close, hopefully a straight-up win,” Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading for Caesars, said shortly after the prime-time game kicked off.
The Packers never trailed and beat the Chiefs 27-19 as 5.5-point underdogs. It was the biggest upset of Sunday and a momentum killer for members of the betting public and their parlays. The Cincinnati Bengals followed up by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 34-31 as 10-point underdogs on “Monday Night Football” in the second-largest upset, point-spread-wise, of the season.
Still, although it took its lumps to close out Week 13, the betting public can feel good about its recent performance. New York sportsbooks reported a 4.16% winning percentage for the week ending Nov. 26. It was the second-lowest win percentage for New York books of any week in the football regular season in the state’s two years with a legal betting market, according to gaming reporter Chris Altruda.
NFL betting notables
More money was bet on the 49ers-Eagles game than on any other afternoon game this season at Caesars Sportsbook, which reported heavy sharp and public action on favored San Francisco.
The battle between the NFC leaders attracted lots of interest from bettors at sportsbooks across the country. DraftKings reported that its bettors won more money on the 49ers than on any other team.
“49ers-Eagles was great for volume, and we had a great crowd for the game,” Murray said. “Unfortunately, nobody wanted to bet on the Eagles. Everyone had the favorite in that one. Everyone was right.”
The 49ers rolled to an impressive 42-19 win and emerged as the clear favorites to win the Super Bowl at sportsbooks. San Francisco moved to 3-1 at ESPN BET, the shortest Super Bowl odds of any team this season. Quarterback Brock Purdy also moved into the role of MVP favorite.
NFL Week 14 lines
[as of Tuesday; via ESPN BET]
New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers (-5.5, 30.5) Thursday Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore Ravens (-7, 42.5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons (-2.5, 39.5) Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (-5.5, 37.5) Indianapolis Colts (-0.5, 42.5) at Cincinnati Bengals Detroit Lions (-3, 40.5) at Chicago Bears Houston Texans (-6.5, 33.5) at New York Jets Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns (-2, 31.5) Minnesota Vikings (-3, 40.5) at Las Vegas Raiders Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (-10.5, 46.5) Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-2.5, 48.5) Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers (-3, 43.5) Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (-3.5, 52.5) Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins (-13, 46.5) Monday Green Bay Packers at New York Giants, (-14, 52.5) Monday
Notable bowl game lines
[as of Dec. 5, via ESPN BET]
Texas A&M Aggies (-3.5, 53.5) vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys, Dec. 27 NC State Wolfpack vs. Kansas State Wildcats (-3.5, 47.5) Dec. 28 Arizona Wildcats (-3.5. 62.5) vs. Oklahoma Sooners, Dec. 28 Missouri Tigers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (-2, 49.5) Dec. 29 Ole Miss Rebels vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (-4, 48.5) Dec. 30 Georgia Bulldogs (-14, 45.5) vs. Florida State Seminoles, Dec. 30 Liberty Flames vs. Oregon Ducks (-16, 65.5) Jan. 1 Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Tennessee Volunteers (-7.5, 35.5) Jan. 1
Q&A with Hard Rock International chair Jim Allen
A 40-plus-year gaming industry veteran executive, Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming, oversaw Florida’s launch of sports betting in November 2021. Only a month later, Hard Rock Sportsbook volunteered to shut down because of legal challenges. The sportsbook relaunched this fall nearly two years later.
Allen spoke with ESPN last week ahead of the reopening of retail sports betting in Florida and full launch of in-person sports betting at Hard Rock Florida casinos Thursday.
The Q&A has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q:After a two-year closure amid legal challenges, Hard Rock Bet relaunched its Florida sports betting app to established customers in November. What was that process like?
A: We knew at that time that we would face legal challenges, and self-volunteered to bring the site down after 31-32 days. We’ve been in this two-year period navigating through all these legal challenges. We also recognize that there may be more to come in the future. That’s certainly part of life and business.
Q: What stands out to you about the action since the relaunch in Florida?
A: As far as our trial that we’ve been in for about 30 days, the volumes have been incredibly strong. We were loyal to the people who came and visited us back in November 2021 and obviously our Unity database customers, but [we] certainly look forward to the official launch Thursday.
Q: In the first month since Hard Rock relaunched, there have been a lot of very big bets reported, million-dollar bets. Was the size of bets and frequency of them consistent with what you saw when you were open for that month in 2021?
A: There are one or two individuals who frankly have really, for lack of better terms, amped up their level of play. One of the individuals is one of our land-based customers. So, the crossover between land-based customers and online continues to grow throughout the United States. We see it in every market, and I think it is one of the advantages that companies like ours and Caesars and MGM and Penn National, obviously now with ESPN have, the land-based database. Certainly, that’s not to say that great companies like DraftKings and FanDuel won’t be successful because obviously they are. But in this particular case, we’re seeing some good crossover from our land-based operations.
Q:The betting industry has exploded over the past five years. Some have expressed concern that it has grown too fast, the advertising has become excessive and not enough is being done for problem gamblers. As a member of the American Gaming Association executive committee, what do you think the biggest challenges facing the sports betting industry are moving forward?
A: We really need to look at the amount of advertising that’s occurring … because it can be overwhelming. I think we as an organization recognize that. At the same time, the industry is so young, right? So everyone, especially in the early days of New Jersey, is jockeying for position and placement of market share. Clearly, as the losses mounted up, I think we see those numbers coming down and coming down significantly on spending on advertising and on promotion allowances. I think it is something we have to keep an eye on as an industry, but I do think there has been some leveling of the playing field over the past 12-14 months.
Q:Do you think the in-game advertising is an area that needs to be pulled back?
A: I wouldn’t say I’m at that particular viewpoint at this time. I think we all have to mature together. I think there will be continuing of consolidation in the industry, just by the nature of it, and I think everyone has recognized that since Day 1. It’s really already happened in the past 24 months, and it’s significant. So, with consolidation, some of these things will level set. So, I don’t think we want to be an alarmist, but definitely think it’s something we’ve got to keep an eye on.
Q:What should the industry do, in your opinion, to help with problem gambling?
A: One of the challenges with it is that some companies embrace [helping] more than others. Very humbly, we’ve been a front-runner on this particular topic for 20-plus years. We were the first company to literally put one of our property presidents on the compulsive gaming council. We don’t just give money but we give additional money for actual training. I definitely know that my fellow executive committee members at the AGA — that’s a combination of MGM, FanDuel, DraftKings, LVS [Las Vegas Sands], all the big companies — we recognize the significance of it, and I do think the AGA is trying to continue to make people aware of that, but there’s no doubt that each individual company also needs to embrace it.
Q: Hard Rock is a partner of New York Mets owner Steve Cohen’s vision of putting a sprawling entertainment destination next to Citi Field, including a casino and sportsbook. What should we know about the plans for that destination?
A: If you look at that site, with all the infrastructure and the proximity to public transportation and obviously to the airport, a tennis center and most likely a soccer stadium being built, and obviously Citi Field. We’re building a 25-acre or so park for the community. We’re taking the project all the way out to Flushing Bay and building an $8 billion integrated resort that’s about entertainment, not just about a local slot parlor or local or regional casino.
Q:What did you think Las Vegas Sands’ deal with Mark Cuban indicates about the future of betting in Texas? Cuban also has floated an idea of building a casino resort that includes a sports arena in Texas. Do you see sports arenas alongside casino resorts as the future of entertainment?
A: [Sands] has done an outstanding job, and I think they’re hopeful that Texas will eventually have some type of approval. We have done something similar where we do have an affiliation with sports in Texas. We have not announced that, but I think that concept is something we’re really intrigued by.