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November 29, 2015

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NFL, NBA lockouts have gamblers, sports books on edge


Leila Navidi

Odds-making guru Johnny Avello heads the race and sports book at the Wynn.

Ted Sevransky had to hedge his bets. Even if those wagers haven’t been placed.

Sevransky, a well-known Las Vegas handicapper who specializes in wagering on the NFL, made plays at offshore sports books on when the NFL’s 100-plus day lockout would end.

His logic was simple: A significant portion of his annual income comes from wagering on and selling picks for NFL games, meaning a potentially shortened season, or no season at all, would be a blow to his finances.

He wagered that a new labor agreement wouldn’t be signed by July 15, and that the first game wouldn’t occur before Sept. 8.

“I was very pessimistic at first, so it seemed like the appropriate wager at the time,” said Sevransky, a Las Vegas resident who is known by the gambling community as “Teddy Covers” from his various television and radio appearances.

The lockout “will certainly affect my income. I had to get some action down,” he continued. “From what I bet, and from what I get from my clients each year, (the lockout) is a substantial setback.”

By this point of the summer, Sevransky would have done a majority of the heavy lifting in his preseason analysis of the teams. With that includes several wagers on win-total bets — numbers sports books have yet to post, because they obviously don’t know how long the season will be. Without a labor agreement in place, his focus has mostly been on preparing for college football.

“You can’t do a proper analysis of the teams because you don’t know how free agency will work. It is frustrating,” Sevransky said.

To make matters worse for gamblers and sports books, the NBA on Friday locked out its players. The professional basketball season is months away from beginning, and the handle is less on basketball than football, but the potential of games being missed is certainly on the minds of gamblers.

“You’re talking about an 82-game schedule and the playoffs,” Sevransky said of the NBA season. “That is every bit of significant.”

Johnny Avello, executive director of the race and sports book at the Wynn, estimates the state’s roughly 160 sports books combine to profit between $33 million and $38 million annually on NFL wagers, and account for 35 percent of wagers placed. Pro and college basketball are the second-best revenue generators, but Avello said nothing compares to the NFL.

“The NFL is a commodity that everyone loves,” he said. “It’s an event people look forward to on Sundays.”

The Wynn is among several properties that have betting odds posted on what team will win the Super Bowl and NBA championship in 2012. With those bets come a disclaimer that money is refunded for a canceled season.

With more than $2.5 billion annually wagered, Nevada sports books will continue making money — even if it’s on a smaller scale. The same, however, can’t be said for others in the industry, such as cocktail waitresses, sports book writers, food vendors and other casino workers. Several properties open their showrooms for NFL viewing parties on Sunday and Monday, with hundreds of fans flocking to watch games.

At the Wynn, Avello has two or three seasonal ticket writers who receive near full-time hours during football season, especially with some books staying open until the wee hours of the morning.

“You can’t overlook the overall impact to the revenue of this town,” Avello said. “A lot of people need those Sundays to make ends meet.”

And come the fall, a smaller group of locals could be affected if the labor situation isn’t settled with the NBA.

“If the NBA went away, people wouldn’t make as big of a deal about it,” Avello said. “But, of course, it will be a big dent to the sports books. It’s just not like football where everyone bets on it. To be honest with you, a lot of people say they can’t stand watching it.”

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