The World Cup is truly a unique gambling holiday. Not only does it come around just once every four years, but it also touches every corner of the globe like no other sporting event. Seemingly everybody has something at stake in the tournament, even if their home country doesn’t make the dance.
More and more people are betting on soccer these days, but most of the domestic matches aren’t necessarily needle-movers for the books. The World Cup, however, is a completely different beast, and oddsmakers have had to be on their game all month.
“These matches have been on par with NFL games,” said Jeff Sherman of the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas. “Usually Champions League is our biggest handle in terms of soccer, then English Premier League and Liga MX (Mexico’s top flight), but this dwarfed that action.”
There were logistical worries about the interest in the tournament. First of all, the United States infamously and embarrassingly failed to qualify for the competition. Also, the time difference between Las Vegas and Moscow is 10 hours, meaning some matches were kicking off at 5 a.m. in Sin City. Despite the hurdles, the numbers were still there.
“The book has been full for pretty much every game,” Sherman said of the crowds at the SuperBook. “By far the Mexico matches were the most popular, but even for the early games, we’d get a lot of people in the place, and you’d hear a lot of ‘oooh-ing and aaah-ing’ during the matches.”
In terms of liability, Sherman said the Westgate is in a good spot with the France vs. Croatia final. France came into the tournament as fourth-favorite at +700, while Croatia were a 30-1 longshot.
“We’re in great shape futures-wise,” Sherman noted. “I was hoping for France vs. England from a booking standpoint. That would’ve been a monster handle for us.”
The Westgate opened France as -210 favorites to lift the trophy, but have since moved them to -250 after an influx of money came in on les Bleus. That was all part of the plan, according to Sherman.
“I anticipated money coming in on them right away and we took a big bet as soon as we opened it, so we moved to -250, but we were ready for that,” he said. “We’re also anticipating that, as the game gets closer, we’ll take a lot of parlays with France -0.5 or France to lift the trophy.”
Sherman also said the chaotic nature of this year’s competition has been a boon for the books.
“Obviously we take a lot of action on the top teams like Brazil, Spain and Germany, so seeing the Germans crash out early was a solid result for us, and with the three-way moneyline, the draw is always good for the books.”
Speaking of three-way moneylines, Sherman also noted that the Westgate saw very few inquiries from bettors who were wondering why they didn’t push if the game ended in a draw.
“People are so much more educated these days,” he said. “We used to get questions about the three-way moneyline all the time, but not anymore.”
Books’ liability on France-Croatia to win World Cup before the tournament:
William Hill US: 8% of tickets and wagers on France, 2% on Croatia
Westgate: France was fourth-most bet team to win it
BetOnline: France fourth-most tickets but still moderate win for the book, Croatia is a huge win for the book
5Dimes: France third-most popular
Pinnacle: France 7% of tickets, fourth-most popular