Is Warriors' dominance ruining NBA futures market in Las Vegas?

Jun 23, 2017 |
Is Warriors' dominance ruining NBA futures market in Las Vegas?
“This past season, there was a 25 percent drop in the futures market from the 2015-16 season. And the 2016-17 season had 75 percent less than the 2014-15 season.”
Photo By - USA Today Images
“This past season, there was a 25 percent drop in the futures market from the 2015-16 season. And the 2016-17 season had 75 percent less than the 2014-15 season.”
Photo By - USA Today Images

On a sweltering hot afternoon in downtown Las Vegas, Tony Miller sits in the comfortable, air-conditioned climes of the Golden Nugget sportsbook he oversees. But a hot topic is up for discussion between Miller and a few of his sharper patrons, about a proposition he’d been pondering putting up on the betting board the past couple of weeks.

The prop bet: Golden State vs. the field, to win the 2017-18 NBA championship. The reason for considering such a prop: a dearth of activity on the NBA futures book market.

“When we first put up the NBA futures, Golden State was such a favorite that we thought, ‘We’ve gotta make the numbers behind them juicy,’” Miller tells Covers, noting he opened the Warriors at -300, a steeper price than anywhere else in town. “But my numbers on every other team were pretty high (plus-money), definitely the highest in town, and still we didn’t get any action. I thought for sure those prices of teams behind the Warriors would draw sharp players. And I got nothing.”

So, shortly after that Thursday discussion and hours before the NBA Draft, Miller posted his prop: Golden State at a price of -240 – better than the Warriors’ futures book price – against the field at +200. It’s too early to tell if that will jump-start some wagering on next season’s NBA champion, but the prop certainly can’t hurt, considering futures action has been so limited.

Matthew Holt, COO of CG Analytics in Las Vegas, definitely understands Miller’s motivation. Holt provided some startling numbers to demonstrate the problem, which he is certain stems from people’s belief that only two teams – Golden State and Cleveland – could possibly win the title, and realistically, perhaps only the defending champion Warriors.

“This past season, there was a 25 percent drop in the futures market from the 2015-16 season. And the 2016-17 season had 75 percent less than the 2014-15 season,” said Holt, whose team supplies odds to CG Technology sportsbooks in Vegas, including the Cosmopolitan and the Venetian on the Strip.

The 2017-18 futures wagering is off to an ominous start at CG books, despite plenty of the type of activity that generally spurs action, even on the worst teams.

“Normally the events of the last 72 hours, the last few days, would bring action,” Holt said. “The 76ers-Celtics trade, the Sixers have a young team with a lot of young talent, and they add Markelle Fultz. The Dwight Howard trade, normally, that would spark someone to say, ‘Hey, Charlotte got Dwight Howard, and has Kemba Walker, let’s throw a hundred bucks on ‘em at 300/1.’ No one threw any money at it. We didn’t take a bet. Those teams in the 300/1 to 500/1 range, you expect to take a bet, and we don’t see any action.

“Fans bet their team after news – a free-agent signing, draft picks, you have a trade. Usually after positive news for a team, there’s some level of support in the futures book for that team. In the NBA, we’re just not seeing it.”

For comparison, look no further than the NFL. Holt said last year CG took more than 100 futures bets on the lowly Cleveland Browns, among others. Major League Baseball’s worst teams drew futures book action, as well.

“It’s such a foregone conclusion in the NBA that it’s going to be Golden State winning, and going to be Cleveland and Golden State in the NBA Finals, that there’s just no movement,” Holt said.

Holt noted the NBA’s superteam era and the accompanying extreme lack of parity are the root of the problem, adding that it extends well beyond the futures book, into the way individual games are bet all season long. That’s a story for another time.

On the flip side of Vegas, though, offshore sportsbook Bookmaker.eu is actually drawing money on teams beyond Golden State, Cleveland, and the next tier of San Antonio and Boston.

“We’ve taken some Wizards money, some Timberwolves and of course some Lakers,” among others, said Scott Cooley, odds consultant for Bookmaker.eu. “Much of it may be posturing from smart players who are looking for value now to hedge or buy off at a later date, but money does come in elsewhere. And of course, we always have the square players that are going to be on their teams because, ‘This is the year.’”

All three teams Cooley noted are longer shots to be sure, with the Wizards the shortest of the batch at about 33/1 following Thursday’s draft. The Timberwolves, who acquired Jimmy Butler from the Bulls on draft night, made a huge jump, from 185/1 to about 65/1. The Lakers, meanwhile, are a massive 140/1 and are generating handle at Bookmaker.eu.

But at this time in Vegas, even at what Miller termed juicy prices, neither sharps nor squares are ponying up NBA futures book cash. That calls for some creativity to fix the market’s dead battery, and Miller hopes his prop provides the jumper cables.

“Now you’re getting 2/1 on every other team in the NBA. That’s a really good price,” Miller said. “If you want to tie up your money for a year and get a good price, here’s your chance.”


Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.


Desktop View: Switch to Mobile View