It’s often said that if you can’t actually be at a particular sporting event, then the next-best place to be is watching inside a Las Vegas sportsbook. This weekend, however, you can get the best of both worlds, with an array of events and games taking place right here in Sin City.
In fact, the weekend is so chock-full that it’s officially been dubbed Ultimate Sports Weekend, replete with a Twitter hashtag and all (#UltimateSportsWeekend). The weekend kicked off with a party at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center on Thursday night, and from Friday to Sunday, Vegas will host a major UFC event, a full NASCAR weekend, an NHL game, an elite international rugby tournament, a college basketball game and, just for good measure, some bull riding too.
If you can’t find something to bet on among those items and the standard winter fare at Vegas sportsbooks – the rest of the slate in college hoops, the NBA and NHL, Alliance of American Football, etc. – then you’re not looking.
“The entertainment capital of the world is at it again this weekend,” said Jay Kornegay, who oversees The SuperBook as vice president of race and sports for Westgate Las Vegas. “NASCAR, UFC, Rugby Sevens, Golden Knights and Rebels are all in action, and you can bet them all.”
Covers checks in on action for three events that are only in town this weekend, with insights from Derek Wilkinson, supervisor at The SuperBook at Westgate, and Chris Andrews, sportsbook director at the South Point.
The Jon Jones-Anthony Smith bout tops the card for UFC 135, taking place Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena. But it’s the bout right before the main event that’s provided intriguing business at The SuperBook.
“We have a ton of action on UFC 235,” Wilkinson said. “One of our sharper mixed martial arts bettors is betting on Kamaru Usman, who’s fighting Tyron Woodley. He bet Usman four times. The public likes Woodley, but we really respect this guy’s bets. Our number is really low, because he keeps betting it.”
As of Thursday night, Usman was a +140 underdog, with Woodley at -160. Wilkinson said the same sharp player took Pedro Munhoz, a modest +110 underdog against Cody Garbrandt.
“Whoever he bets, the market starts dropping on that fighter,” Wilkinson said.
In the main event, Jones is an absolutely massive -950 chalk, with Smith a huge +625 pup.
“Smith is such a big underdog that our liability is on him,” Wilkinson said. “But in terms of ticket count, the public is gonna be on Jones. It’s a small five-figure decision right now.”
There’s no getting around it: the South Point is ground zero for cowboys and car drivers. The aforementioned bull riding event, taking place at the South Arena, is part of the Tuff Hedeman Bull Riding Tour. (Note: I know Tuff Hedeman. Covered him when he was still riding bulls. His first name is beyond spot on.)
But it’s the car drivers getting the cash at the sportsbook windows. Sunday’s Monster Energy Cup Pennzoil 400 is the centerpiece of a weekend that includes NASCAR Truck Series and Xfinity Series races, on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
“We’re definitely active on NASCAR,” Andrews said. “We’re doing a lot of stuff. For Sunday’s race, we’ve got team matchups, group betting. We’ve got quite a bit up for NASCAR.”
The South Point has Kevin Harvick as the 9/2 favorite in Sunday’s race, with Vegas native Kyle Busch the second choice at 5/1. But there are others drivers getting bettors’ attention.
“The action is pretty spread out, but Brad Keselowski has quite a bit of money on him,” Andrews said. “Alex Bowman, young kid, is getting some money, and so is Kurt Busch at 20/1.”
Wilkinson said The SuperBook had “quite a bit of liability” on Jimmie Johnson, who’s a bit of a longer shot at 50/1 on Sunday.
“And oddly enough, we’ve got a lot of liability on Michael McDowell. He’s at 1000/1,” Wilkinson said. “It’s pretty large five-figure liability, so we don’t want him to win.”
At those odds, it’s extremely unlikely that The SuperBook has anything to worry about.
This international rugby tournament, featuring the top teams in the world, is now an annual staple on the Vegas sports calendar. And though it’s not a highly bet event, that doesn’t stop The SuperBook from taking care of those who want to get a few dollars down on these rough-and-tumble rugby teams.
“The games are fast, and there’s not much time between them, so we can’t book individual games. But we do book futures,” Wilkinson said. “We just do it for the casual bettor coming to town to see the tournament.”
Fiji is the favorite this weekend at +175, followed closely by New Zealand at +225 and defending champion USA at +250. Matches begin at 6 p.m. ET Friday at Sam Boyd Stadium.
“We haven’t seen much action yet. A few dollars on USA Sevens,” Wilkinson said Thursday evening. “But I think we’ll get more bets with people coming into town tonight and Friday.”
The rest of the weekend sports smorgasbord in Vegas includes UNLV basketball hosting Boise State in a 10:30 p.m. ET tip Saturday night, and the Vegas Golden Knights facing the Vancouver Canucks at 4 p.m. ET Sunday at T-Mobile Arena.
But as Wilkinson alluded to earlier, UFC 235 will easily rule the sports betting roost this weekend.
“I don’t know how the crowds are gonna be around town – very different events, very different crowds,” he said. “But I know our biggest decisions by far are gonna be on UFC 235. That will take precedence over NASCAR. It’s a very good UFC card.”