The 'homer effect': A new bookmaking quandary

ByDavid Purdum and Doug Kezirian Via <a Href="" Title="espn" Class="espn_sc_byline">espn </a>
July 14, 2018, 7:56 PM

When the Supreme Court ruled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) unconstitutional on May 14, it opened the door for legalized sports betting in the U.S. on a state-by-state basis.

New Jersey and Delaware are the first two states to begin taking legal sports bets outside of Nevada, but they represent just the tip of the iceberg. Mississippi and West Virginia are poised to follow suit in the coming months, and within five years, some analysts believe more than half of the states will be offering sports betting.

The repeal of PASPA also opened the door for new questions across a sports betting landscape that had mostly existed in Nevada and offshore, including varying time zones for legal sportsbooks and home-team bias leading to different odds in different states.

When the odds to win Super Bowl LIII were posted last Thursday at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, there were no signs of regional bias, no apparent concerns from bookmakers that they'd be overwhelmed, for example, by bets on the Philadelphia Eagles from local fans.

The Eagles were 17-2 to win the Super Bowl at the new William Hill sportsbook at Monmouth Park, just like they were at the William Hill sportsbook at Casino Royale on the Las Vegas Strip. Philly's Super Bowl odds were 8-1 at the Borgata in Atlantic City, an MGM property; they were also 8-1 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Until recently, this wasn't something Las Vegas had to deal with, but it's coming.

Just think: the Eagles may be taking on the Las Vegas Raiders in a few years. The betting action at Pennsylvania books could be lopsided on the Eagles, while the action in Nevada might be heavy on the Raiders. Will the point spread on the game vary wildly from state to state?

Opinions vary, but the majority of bookmakers told ESPN they don't expect to have significantly different lines to start.

Complicating matters further is the business arrangements made between racetracks outside Nevada and sportsbooks operators. Monmouth Park -- a venerable racetrack in Oceanport, New Jersey -- will split sports betting revenue 50-50 with its bookmaking partner William Hill, which arrived in Nevada in 2011 and now operates more than 100 venues in the Silver State. Monmouth Park, of course, will want William Hill to maximize profits at the track, while the bookmaker may want to consider its overall corporate bottom line.

"We don't know what to expect until we get into the season and find out exactly what we're up against," William Hill's director of trading, Nick Bogdanovich, said. "You can prepare to make a decision, but you really can't until you're into the fight. This will definitely be an easier question to answer come Sept. 6."

The Sept. 6 date referenced by Bogdanovich represents the official start of NFL season, when far more money will begin showing up in legal sports betting states. The Eagles, by the way, are 4.5-point favorites over the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 6, both in New Jersey and Nevada.

"Their liability [on the Eagles], given parlays, teasers, straight bets and parlay cards, could be extremely massive," Ed Salmons, oddsmaker at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, said.

Any kind of "homer effect," while not yet evident in New Jersey, is one of several unknowns for bookmakers and bettors entering a new landscape with expanded legal sports betting in the U.S.

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