Best Bet in the House

The Superbook at LVH.

The Superbook at LVH.

I’ve discussed football deals quite a bit in this space, but I haven’t touched yet on how well betting football (and other sports) stacks up against other casino games. For a gambler, winning is the most important thing. But while winning over time is possible, casual gamblers can’t realistically count on it to happen. Hence, getting a good run (and some fun) for your money becomes almost as important. This is where sports betting outshines all the other gambling options at your disposal.

The amount a casino wins over a given period of time on a gambling game is determined by three factors: the house edge, the average amount of the wagers and the speed of play. By considering these variables, you can put a real number on what it costs to play any game. The casino would like you to play where that cost is highest. You should look for the opposite. Check out this comparison with the Riviera’s new $1 blackjack promotion:

Since there’s only a single dollar table at the Riv, it’s always full, which means you play at a pace of about 40 hands per hour. The rules on the game set the casino edge at about 2 percent against optimal play. You can derive the casino’s earn—which is the cost for you to play—as 40 x .02 x $1 = 80¢ per hour. That’s some downright cheap entertainment, but it’s still not as cheap as making a sports bet. Here’s the breakdown.

The casino has a 4.5 percent edge on a standard bet-11-to-win-10 sports-betting proposition that you make on a football or basketball game. So for an $11 wager, your expected loss is just 50 cents! Keep in mind that this is for straight bets on sides or totals. If you’re betting parlay cards, teasers and futures, the cost to play rises dramatically.

That 50-cent expected loss beats the 80 cents for an hour’s play at Riviera blackjack, but it’s better yet given that a typical game lasts about three hours. Now you’re comparing 50 cents against $2.40 for three hours of blackjack. Or stated differently, the sports bet costs about 17 cents per hour. Bet $22 (to win $20) and most sportsbooks will comp you a cocktail. Now you’re fading an expected loss of $1 for three hours of action and a drink.

Don’t try to argue that it’s not the same buzz. Once that bet is down, you’ll be riveted to the game as long as you have any chance of winning it (the only time this doesn’t hold up is when your team gets blown out from the start). In fact, sports betting provides a surefire way for guys to get their girls to buy into their weekend passion. Make a bet for her, give her the ticket and watch what happens.

Anthony Curtis is the publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and