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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's Editor in Chief and has worked as a writer and editor more than 20 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel.

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'Deflategate' verdict sends shockwaves through sportsbooks worldwide

4 Sep 2015

By Gary Trask
ESPN programming came to a sudden halt. Twitter and Facebook exploded. New England Patriot fans rejoiced and the rest of the NFL let out a collective groan. Early Thursday morning, the fate of quarterback Tom Brady for the upcoming NFL season was finally decided when it was announced the All-Pro quarterback's four-game "Deflategate" suspension would be overturned. The news reverberated well beyond NFL circles, most notably through sportsbooks in Las Vegas and offshore. "When I got the call, the first thing that went through my mind was, 'Oh, shit,'" said BetOnline Sports Sportsbook Brand Manager Dave Mason a few hours after Thursday morning's chaos. "The next thing I had to do, of course, was ask where our numbers (on the Patriots) were and figure out pretty quickly what we wanted to do with them."
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Thursday morning's announcement that Tom Brady's "Deflategate" suspension would be overturned, sent shockwaves through sportsbooks worldwide, including Golden Nugget Las Vegas. (photo courtesy of the Golden Nugget)

Before "Deflategate" threatened to sideline Brady, the Patriots opened a TD favorite in their Thursday night NFL season-opener at home against Pittsburgh. But on May 11, the NFL whacked Brady with a four-game suspension for allegedly playing a role in deflating game balls used in a 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship on Jan. 18. Brady, who went on to claim a third Super Bowl MVP in a pulsating victory over Seattle, is one of the few players in the NFL that can significantly sway a point spread all by himself. So, after the suspension was announced, numbers on New England games and futures were adjusted dramatically. The Pats fell from a 7-point favorite to as low as 2.5 in most spots. Nearly all books in Las Vegas took the game off the board over the last few weeks as everyone involved painstakingly waited a verdict from Judge Richard Berman. Some offshore outlets – including BetOnline – kept taking action on the game. When judgement day came on Thursday sportsbooks immediately bumped the line back to 6 or 7. On air, Mason moved it to 6 and almost instantaneously got hit with sharp money on New England, forcing another move up to 7. On Friday, the consensus line was the Pats -7 with reduced juice (-105), with a spattering of 6.5s on the board. Either way, there are likely more than a few astute bettors out there with tickets in their pockets that say Pittsburgh +7 and New England -2.5, an unsettling scenario for bookmakers since both wagers cash if the Pats win by anywhere between three and seven points.

"Yeah, this game a mess for us because there is one, big, juicy middle sitting out there right now," said Mason, who added that before Thursday 57% of tickets written on the game were Steelers money, but that number dropped to 53% by Thursday afternoon. In Las Vegas, the liability isn't nearly as bad since most shops recently took the game off the board. "Everybody has been in the same boat. The public has been just as unsure of what was going to happen as the bookmakers," said Tony Miller, Sportsbook Director at the Golden Nugget - Las Vegas in downtown Las Vegas since 2006. "Brady is truly one of the few guys who can move a line, so this was an important piece of the puzzle. And this wasn't just some normal regular season game we were talking about. This was the defending Super Bowl champs in the prime time, NFL Thursday night season opener, a game we always get a ton of action on. This was an important piece of the puzzle." As for future odds, the numbers were slightly altered and both Mason and Miller said not much action came in either way following Thursday's announcement. BetOnline moved the Pats from -160 to -210 to win the AFC East (the opener last spring was -225) and Super Bowl odds went from +850 to +800. Miller moved New England to 3.5-to-1 from 4.5-to-1 to win the AFC and kept the season win total at 10.5, but moved the vig on the over from even to -145. "In all my years of doing this, I've never been through something like this before," added Miller. "We had the entire betting universe waiting and waiting and waiting for some judge to make a ruling on something that would have a huge effect on one of the most important players in the league, who plays quarterback for one of the signature franchises. There was a lot at stake, but, like everyone else, I'm glad it's over. Now we can all move on. Let's play some football."

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