The NFL Draft is an annual event that grows in popularity every year. While some members of the media approach it as if they are being asked to eat day-old gas station sushi, gambling on the annual selections of college players is as hot as ever.
For the sportsbooks here in Las Vegas, offering prop bets for the NFL Draft was forbidden until last year. Brick-and-mortar sportsbook customers begged for years for the chance to wager on props like the first overall player selected or the number of running backs taken in the first round.
The response to the Nevada Gaming Commission allowing wagering on the 2017 NFL Draft was overwhelming and it’s expected to be even bigger this year. Offshore books have been taking bets on the draft for several years now and their handle continues to grow as well.
We asked a few sportsbook operators, both here in Vegas and offshore, about what they expect to see from their customers Thursday night and beyond as the 2018 NFL Draft gets underway in Dallas.
Q: How much of a handle do NFL Draft props generate?
Matt Holt (VP of CG Technology): “In the past, NFL Draft props have generated much more editorial content and marketing for the books than actual handle. Yet, this year, with five great QB’s and a stud RB there is so much anticipation around the draft.”
Pat Morrow (Head Oddsmaker at Bovada.lv): “They generate the same kind of handle as NFL Sunday player props or maybe a low-level college basketball game.”
Dave Mason (Brand Manager of BetOnline.ag): “The NFL Draft has turned into a serious betting event. Last year’s draft saw more action than a real good UFC event. Years back, we considered it more of a PR event that won’t get a lot of action but will get people talking. Now it’s both. The odds guys need to be on top of their games more than ever, because serious action is coming our way.”
Jay Kornegay (Westgate Superbook): “Draft props are still new and we don’t take a lot of action on them. Most of the wagers are in the grocery dollar range. Some of the sharps will scalp numbers if opportunity arises.”
This year, over/under 1.5 Notre Dame players drafted in first round opened over -240, under +190. The current line is over -1100, under +700. Most of that was adjusted aggressively as the market adjusted quickly. Our biggest decision will be who will be drafted first between Josh Rosen and Saquon Barkley. We opened Rosen -300, Barkley +240 and are now at Barkley -340, Rosen +270.”
Q: How much action do you see on other NFL props (Super Bowl futures, win totals, etc.) just because people are in the sportsbook to watch the draft?
Holt: “We will do much more actual betting handle on the other NFL products we just released today such as NFL season win totals, yes/no to make playoffs and season long player props during the draft itself.”
Morrow: “We’re not a sportsbook that people are sitting in to watch the draft and then bet but regardless, we do see an uptick in futures wagering after and during the draft.”
Mason: “Yup, we will definitely see a boost in other NFL futures over the next few days. The thing I like so much about the NFL Draft is that a lot of football bettors return to the site who might have left after the Super Bowl. These guys are seeing these Super Bowl odds and win totals for the first time.”
Q: Do you ever move a Super Bowl future based on a team’s draft picks or trades?
Morrow: “Yes, of course. This would often revolve around a team trading up or trading for a QB as that position is the most impactful to the team’s success and therefore the betting line.”
Mason: “We won’t move the odds because of the draft picks. However, players might hit a particular team due to a perceived great draft. So, we might lower the odds a bit, strictly for risk-management reasons.”
Kornegay: “We will move numbers based on the draft and especially trades. Anything we see that could impact the upcoming season.”
Q: What is your expected handle this year compared to what you saw last year?
Morrow: “We can’t do exact numbers, but we can say that wagering on the draft so far is up 25% versus last year.”
Mason: “Last year’s draft was through the roof. It was our biggest NFL Draft we ever booked, beating 2016 by about 35%. We are on schedule to surpass last year’s draft. We won’t blow it away by 35%, but we should definitely book more. Having all of the big name QB’s at the top definitely helps action.”
Top Photo: Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (14) and UCLA Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen (15) wait for their turn to throw in work out drills during the 2018 NFL Combine