The fluctuation of betting lines and odds thus far for the Canadian Football League’s 110th Grey Cup suggests that serious money came in fast and furious at some shops on a not-so-surprising name: the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Winnipeg, led by quarterback Zach Collaros, is playing in its third CFL championship final in a row, with two of those three appearances victories. After another solid regular season campaign, in which Winnipeg finished 14-4 for the year, the team is on the cusp of legendary status.
Standing in the way of that Blue Bomber myth-making is the Montreal Alouettes, underdogs of as much as eight-and-a-half points on Thursday afternoon. The Als are red-hot and coming off a major playoff upset against the Toronto Argonauts — but that hasn’t been enough to stop the Grey Cup lines from moving against Montreal.
Case in point: at some sports betting sites, the underdog Alouettes have drawn most of the money to cover the point spread for Sunday’s Grey Cup. However, even with the splits tilting in favour of Montreal, the Eastern Final winners, the spread movement indicates a lot of faith in the Western Final victors, Winnipeg.
Indeed, some operators opened Winnipeg as at or near a touchdown favourite for the game before Bomber bets helped send the spread north of seven to a current level of around eight-and-a-half points at most books.
Phill Gray has booked a lot of Grey Cups, and the gaming industry consultant and former head of trading operations at Sports Interaction noted the moneyline odds continue to trend in Winnipeg’s direction as well. As of Thursday afternoon, the Blue Bombers were straight-up favourites of as short as -450.
“So that kind of tells me everybody is on Winnipeg moneyline and the spread,” Gray told Covers in an interview.
Legacy game incoming?
FanDuel, for instance, reported a blue streak of action in its sole regulated Canadian sports betting market of Ontario.
According to the bookmaker, more than 80% of the moneyline handle for Sunday’s Grey Cup was on Winnipeg as of Thursday afternoon. For the spread, while the number of bets on each team was about even, nearly 70% of the money was on the Bombers to cover.
“The perception is [Winnipeg] is the better team,” the Montreal-based Gray said. “They’re going for the legacy… but what you may see on Sunday, especially here in Quebec, which is a sizable betting market, is some buyback on the Alouettes.”
Some bettors already bought Montreal. BetMGM told Covers on Thursday that 70% of bets and 67% of the handle was on the Alouettes to cover the spread, which opened at seven before reaching 8.5 points at odds of -110. For the total, BetMGM said 75% of bets and 94% of money was on the Over, which opened and remained at 47.5.
Behold the site of the 110th Grey Cup on Sunday, Tim Hortons Field. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers just wrapped practice and Montreal is due on the field in 30. It is a perfect day, barely any wind, although supposed to get a bit chilly for the game. pic.twitter.com/nmZsIrgBr2— Geoff Zochodne (@GeoffZochodne) November 16, 2023
Sunday’s game will also be played at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ont., where the provincially owned Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. opened Winnipeg as 9.5-point favourites. As of Thursday morning, the line at OLG’s PROLINE sportsbook was still -9.5, albeit at odds of +100.
OLG told Covers that the early money came in on Montreal, as 70% of customers were backing the Alouettes on the spread and 75% were taking them outright to win. As for the total, 80% of PROLINE customers had their money on Under 47.5 points as of Thursday morning.
There is only a little futures-related liability hanging in the balance for OLG this weekend, as the operator said Winnipeg and Montreal accounted for just 8% and 3% of all Grey Cup outright wagers, respectively. The Argos loss last Saturday, however, was huge for the PROLINE provider, as 67% of all wagers on the 110th Grey Cup winner were on Toronto to repeat as CFL champions.
“Last year’s Grey Cup was among the most popular games of the week across all sports, exceeded only by a handful of top-tier NFL matchups,” OLG told Covers. “Of course, that game featured the hometown Argos (who ended up winning the game), which helped to drive a great deal of interest.”
Still, FanDuel, an official sports betting partner of the CFL, told Covers they have seen “a significant increase” in wagering on the three-down football league in Ontario this year compared to last.
“Player props are picking up and we expect it to really increase leading into the [Grey Cup] when elements like the weather become more clear,” the operator added.
If it was easy, everyone would do it
Gray oversaw a trading team at Sports Interaction that marked the 108th edition of the Grey Cup by setting lines for and taking bets on 108 game and player props for the event.
But booking Canadian football is tough, Gray said, because of the churn on rosters, a sometimes-slower drip of news, and the quirky outcomes you get when teams can score one-point rouges.
“That's why you see a lot of volatility in the numbers,” Gray said. “It’s tough to book, especially in-play. The pace is much faster with three downs. You’ve really got to be on the ball and you can’t leave lines up as long.”
For bettors looking for value, though, Gray looked again to the moneyline and the Alouettes, albeit not immediately, perhaps. The longtime trader said he thought Montreal should be in the range of around +200 to win, yet they are trading at +300 and beyond.
“I think it’s going to be +350 by Sunday if the money keeps coming in on Winnipeg,” Gray said.
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