If you walk up to the window at MGM Grand sports book and want to place a $200,000 straight wager on Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao, your bet will be taken without managerial approval.
Next in line, please.
Around Las Vegas, oddsmakers expecting such wagers contend there will be such sheer volume of two-way action on next Saturday’s boxing blockbuster that the vigorish — that middle-ground money between the inflated odds on the favorite, and the deflated underdog odds — will protect them.
“There’s been a constant betting on the fight, even after the announcement was made, that you very, very rarely ever see,” Jimmy Vaccaro said.
Vaccaro runs the sports book at South Point Casino and has been making book here for some four decades at a variety of properties. He took bets on Larry Holmes-Muhammad Ali, Holmes-Gerry Cooney, Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns and Ray Leonard-Hagler.
“I’ve never seen as much action as this on a major fight with eight days to go,” Vaccaro said Friday. “This will be crazy. I’ve witnessed this for a long time and I’ve never seen the interest in anything like this.”
With the fight one week away, oddsmakers here are unanimous on a few of their perceptions about the fight.
One, the line is skewed to protect books from taking an undue amount of money on Pacquiao. Mayweather is about a -200 favorite here (wager $200 to win $100), while Pacquiao is about a plus-170 underdog (wager $100 to win $170). Mayweather should be favored by more, sports-book managers agree.
Two, Pacquiao is drawing a far greater volume of wagers — about three for every one Mayweather wager at MGM Grand, and a whopping seven-to-one ratio at Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino — but Mayweather bets are far bigger.
Three, there never has been anything like it in boxing wagering.
Jay Rood, vice president of race and sports books at MGM Resorts International, said Mayweather-Pacquiao, at MGM Grand Garden Arena, already constitutes the fourth-largest handle for a fight at that property.
“It’s easily going to be the biggest fight that we’ve ever booked at MGM since we opened back in 1993,” Rood said.
Rood gets a daily spreadsheet to account for fight wagers and said MGM has written about three times as many wagers on Pacquiao as on Mayweather, but is “actually longer on dollars to Mayweather — not by much, but by a little bit.”
Oddsmakers try to manage the line to encourage bettors to wager in the direction the casino needs. The hope is that by employing risk management once the betting line is posted, the casino will attract an amount of money on both sides of a bet that allows it to profit regardless which side wins.
It rarely works that way.
“We’re still a little bit of a loser to Manny right now,” Rood said. “But we’re in a good spot right now, a week out. We’ve got a lot of leeway to go, and it gives us freedom.”
With a fight projected to do the numbers Mayweather-Pacquiao will, there is a very good chance that books will take enough volume to protect themselves.
How much volume?
Nevada Gaming Control doesn’t break down sports-book handle on a fight-by-fight basis — a megafight gets lumped in with other boxing, and boxing gets lumped in with other sports — so no one ever knows the exact wagering impact of a specific fight.
But Vaccaro said he, Rood, and a few other trusted bookmakers have mused about what they believe a legitimate projected casino drop on Mayweather-Pacquiao is.
They came up with $70 million, Vaccaro said.
That compares to $115 million on this year’s Super Bowl.
“It’s a pretty big number for a fight,” Vaccaro said.
Vaccaro had South Point odds set exactly as MGM Grand did Friday night, minus-200 on Mayweather and plus-170 on Pacquiao.
“Right now, you just flow with the crowd,” he said. “The more action you get, the better off you are, because obviously, when you start to take two-way action, there’s an earn proposition there for bookmakers. As long as you’re taking two-way action, and somebody’s laying two dollars and someone’s taking plus-170, we’re not paying out as much to the winners as we’re taking from the losers.”
The volume is about six Pacquiao bets for every one Mayweather bet at South Point, Vaccaro said.
“You get a big bet on Mayweather, you get six tickets right behind it — 20, 100, 150, 200 (dollars) — on Pacquiao,” he said. “The ticket ratio in this fight will never, ever, ever go below five to one. The Filipinos love their guy, but they’re not going to rush in and bet millions of dollars on these fights. They’re betting on their guy. They just want a ticket in their pocket for $20 and they want to see their guy knock off the king.”
Vaccaro said South Point currently is in a losing position if Pacquiao wins, “but I’ve been doing this for so long, I know that you will never, ever see Mayweather money this early in the fight. And that’s a good indictor for bookmakers, knowing that we can get Mayweather money if we need it the day of the fight by lowering the odds to 170 or 180.”
That harkens the question of what the real betting line should be if there were no bettors to skew it.
In late 2014, when there were rumblings about the fight happening this year, Vaccaro put up Mayweather as a minus-300 favorite, with plus-250 on Pacquiao.
“I thought that’s what he legitimately should be,” Vaccaro said. “That’s probably about the right number. But booking the right number and booking perception anymore are quite different.”
South Point got hit early with Pacquiao money, took the fight off the board when negotiations appeared stalled, then reopened wagering after the fight was announced on Feb. 20 with Mayweather at minus-240, “because I knew there was going to be a crush on Pacquiao,” Vaccaro said.
Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sports at Westgate Las Vegas, agreed with Vaccaro that “Mayweather probably should be closer to just about three bucks (minus-300).”
“You never see a true line,” Kornegay said. “When the Patriots, or the Seahawks, or the Cowboys play, it’s always going to be inflated toward those teams because of the popularity of those particular teams. We know Pacquiao is very popular. We know most of the tickets — we don’t know about the money yet — but we know most of the tickets will be written on Pacquiao.”
“As of Friday afternoon, it was 87 percent for Pacquiao at Westgate,” Kornegay said.
Yet Westgate is only slightly exposed financially to losing on a Pacquiao victory because the property already has taken “a few six-figure wagers on Mayweather,” Kornegay said.
By fight night, Kornegay predicted the Westgate actually could be slightly exposed to a Mayweather victory because of the early big wagers on the Grand Rapids native and Las Vegas resident, and the likelihood that big bettors, “who are not shy about laying that price,” turn up in the final days to hammer the 2-to-1 favorite.
“Everybody thinks that we just balance it out,” Kornegay said. “It’s rarely ever balanced out on any particular event. You’re always going to be on one side or the other. And it’s the same with this particular event.”
Westgate opened Mayweather at minus-275, with Pacquiao at plus-235, and even though it needs more Mayweather money to balance the books, it still is offering some of the better Pacquiao odds in town — minus-215 on Mayweather, plus-185 on Pacquiao.
The greater the volume, the greater the probability that two-way action protects the casino.
And there is plenty of action.
“There’s no doubt that this fight is attracting a lot more action than has ever been seen on any fight,” Kornegay said. “The number of bets that we’ve seen, and the amount of money that’s already come in, a week prior to the fight, surpasses anything that we’ve seen before.”
At MGM Grand, Rood figures to oversee the largest volume of bets at the host site.
“About two weeks ago we had some Filipino money show up and they bet nearly a half-million dollars on Manny,” Rood said. “But then, literally, about three days later, we got a series of three bets on Mayweather that offset that and we didn’t really have to move the number a whole lot.”
MGM has taken Mayweather down to as little as minus-170 within the last three days. The big bettor on Pacquiao placed his wager at plus-150, Rood said.
MGM did not put the fight on the board until after it was announced, and opened Mayweather at minus-240, with Pacquiao at plus-200.
Pacquiao money flooded in quickly.
“I’m glad I didn’t have to fade (cover) a whole lot more than two dollars (plus-200) on Manny early,” Rood said.
If any property is particularly exposed to one position or the other by imbalanced wagering, it figures to be MGM Grand, both because it will have a well-heeled clientele that has paid at least $1,500 apiece for boxing tickets — and likely far more — and because those allowed to purchase ringside seats are required to have a $250,000 line of credit with the casino.
If those bettors exercise their credit lines and peg one fighter or the other with heavy late wagers, MGM could be exposed, particularly in the event of an underdog victory.
That even could require some scrambling on the casino floor to cover the tickets.
“If Manny were to win and we were to end up being a significant loser to it, and we had a lot of cash that we were going to have to pay out, we would do a fill from our (casino) cage and have it on hand,” Rood said. “The problem is, you don’t want to have a lot of cash over here that’s not necessarily as protected as it is in the cage because of the world we live in nowadays.”
Part of that problem is mitigated by the fact the fight is happening Saturday night and bettors probably won’t have immediate plans to leave town, unlike a Super Bowl Sunday, when the millions who live within driving distance want to cash out and leave that night, Rood said.
Vaccaro said two things are certain: Mayweather-Pacquiao is unlike any fight this desert boxing capital ever has seen, and the long wait has not diminished it any.
“The naysayers that are saying, ‘I’ve been waiting for the last five years, I’m not going to watch. …’ Everybody’s going to watch. Everybody that’s in Las Vegas, they’re going to make a bet,” Vaccaro said. “Forget that they made them wait five years. Forget that it’s fairly obvious Pacquiao is past his prime. It won’t make a bit of difference. You’re either going to pay for it or you’re going to make a bet on it.”