NFL draft betting exceeds Las Vegas' expectations

AP Photo/Isaac Brekken

The betting action on the NFL draft exceeded the expectations of several Las Vegas bookmakers, who were already dreaming up different propositions they'd like to offer next year.

This was the first year Nevada's regulated sportsbooks were allowed to offer proposition bets on the NFL draft. The books didn't receive approval from Nevada Gaming Control until roughly three weeks before the draft and were forced to halt betting April 26, the day before the first round. Bets on individual players or picks, like "who would be the No. 1 overall pick?" were prohibited. Limits were "nickels ($500) and dimes ($1,000)."

Chris Andrews, sportsbook director at the South Point casino, said the total amount bet on the draft at his shop, an independent book, located roughly 20 minutes off the Las Vegas strip, was "around $60,000."

"I thought it was going to be like two [thousand]," Andrews said. "That's a lot at a nickel a whack. That's a lot of bets."

How many quarterbacks would be taken in the first round, over/under 3.5, and how many LSU players would be drafted in the first round, over/under 2, were the most popular props at Station Casinos' books.

"In both cases, the over was popular with bettors," Chuck Esposito, sportsbook director at Sunset Station, told ESPN in an email. "There was a loud cheer when the [Buffalo] Bills took Tre'Davious White at No. 27, pushing that over two."

William Hill's Nevada sportsbook took an $8,400 bet on under 3.5 (-210) quarterbacks being taken in the first round. The bettor won $4,000 after only the Chicago Bears (Mitch Trubisky), Kansas City Chiefs (Patrick Mahomes) and Houston Texans (Deshaun Watson) took quarterbacks in the first round.

With varying prices around town, which round the first kicker would be taken in was a popular prop around Las Vegas. The Cincinnati Bengals selected Memphis kicker Jake Elliott in the fifth round.

"We got murdered on the kicker prop," Andrews said. "It took away all our profit. We broke even."

The Westgate SuperBook reported similar "break even" results off of better-than-expected handle and said that both sophisticated bettors and the betting public got involved.

"Hopefully, down the road, they'll open it up some and let us be a little more creative," said Ed Salmons, assistant manager at the SuperBook. "You could put up a player and an over/under ... 'will they be drafted in top 12.5 picks?' or something like that."

Esposito, a Las Vegas veteran, has held numerous draft parties over the years at his book, but said the addition of betting increased the intrigue at this year's event.

"I noticed a lot of guests at the party with a wagering ticket in their hand talking about their bets," Esposito added.