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Gaming Guru

Matt Youmans

Tampa Bay victory could prove costly

21 October 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- With a group of future stars including third baseman Evan Longoria, outfielder B.J. Upton and pitcher James Shields, the Tampa Bay Rays were expected to be an improved baseball team this season.

As it has turned out, much to the surprise of Las Vegas oddsmakers, the future arrived sooner than anticipated for the Rays.

Tampa Bay, a 200-1 long shot in April to win the World Series, is making several sports book directors nervous in late October.

The Rays are minus-150 favorites against the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies in a highly improbable World Series matchup that opens Wednesday.

"I don't think it will be a vastly popular matchup, but there is some drama that could unfold and people could get excited about it," MGM Mirage sports book director Jay Rood said Monday.

There is plenty of drama in Las Vegas, where some sports books are facing six-figure losses if Tampa Bay wins the World Series.

Las Vegas Hilton sports book director Jay Kornegay said he's looking at a smaller potential loss, but he's definitely rooting against the Rays.

"It's not that we're going to get destroyed and be forced to shut down the book," Kornegay said. "I would call it a solid loser. It's not an astronomical number.

"But it doesn't take much to accumulate liability when you're giving out 200-1 odds."

Sports books normally hold 25 to 30 percent of futures wagers, so even small losses are unexpected. No specific figures were available, but sources indicated the state's cumulative World Series losses on Tampa Bay could easily top $1 million.

Rood said MGM Mirage is in a rare position to win a small amount on the Rays because of futures book adjustments made during the season. Tampa Bay opened at 150-1 at MGM Mirage books. The odds dropped to 50-1 at the All-Star break and to 20-1 in early August.

"After the All-Star break, I saw this team wasn't going to go away. I was able to get us in a much better spot," Rood said.

Because most books need to attract Phillies money in the World Series, the Rays opened as bigger favorites. Rood said Tampa Bay should be "realistically" about a minus-130 favorite.

"The line is probably a little inflated because everyone is not in a great position on the Rays in the World Series," said Rood, adding that "most of the damage was done" with wagers on Tampa Bay to win the American League at 75-1 odds.

How low were most expectations for the Rays? The Hilton posted Tampa Bay's regular-season win total at 751/2, and 18 teams were listed higher.

The Hilton opened the Phillies at 20-1 to win the World Series, with a regular-season win total of 87.

Philadelphia is a minus-115 favorite in Game 1 at Tampa Bay. Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels, 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA in three postseason starts, opposes Rays lefty Scott Kazmir.

Hamels is perceived as the strongest starter in the series. But the rest of Philadelphia's rotation -- Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton -- could be its weakness.

Tampa Bay seemingly has an edge with Shields and Matt Garza lined up to start behind Kazmir. Garza won two games to help the Rays eliminate Boston in the seven-game AL Championship Series.

Rood said he expects Tampa Bay to win the World Series.

"The Rays match up well in pitching, they've got the bats and they're hot right now," he said.

Tampa Bay victory could prove costly is republished from