My money was good anywhere, just not at Caesars Palace. Or not all of it, anyway. Having already placed bets there on two college games—$8,000 on Penn State (+5�) and another $8,000 on Illinois (+4)—I ambled up to the counter and tried to bet the limit on Kentucky (+19�). This game was not on anybody's radar, the feature proposition that Saturday being Ohio State-Michigan. At 8 a.m. the sports book in the corner of the Caesars casino, with its huge screens and blinking tote boards, was crowded with fans, a lot of them wearing telltale school colors and drinking tailgate-appropriate beverages and betting maybe $100 here and there. But when I asked to bet $10,000 on Kentucky, the posted limit at the posted line on a nothing game in a place that is dedicated to just this sort of proposition, things got sticky. (This, by the way, was not all my money, not by a long shot; the lion's share of my various sports bets was provided, quite legally, by a serious gambler willing to illustrate how some casinos behave these days.)
Professional sports gamblers in Nevada, the only state in the country where such an occupation is legal, have been complaining that certain casinos recently have been showing a decided preference for dumb money, the kind that comes in small increments from yahoos wearing scarlet and gray and tipping Coors for breakfast, not in bundles of cash from the pros, who batter the line with their computer printouts. Actually, when a bettor must lay 11 to win 10, anybody's money ought to be good. Not many computer programs can overcome that edge over the course of a season. And besides, shouldn't the smart money set the line, anyway, its educated action providing the balance for us yahoos?
The gamblers say that certain sports books have become so paranoid about smart money that it has become impossible to bet the limit. Moreover, says one bettor, at a certain few casinos they will be told in the middle of placing a bet that the line has moved, that bets at other properties have just come in, making it necessary to adjust the spread. In some industries, gamblers point out, this would be called bait and switch.
If this is true, the end result would be to push even more money into offshore Internet sports books, they say, which produces no cut for local gaming, or taxes for state and federal governments. Sports books may not be a huge profit center for Las Vegas casinos, but try to imagine this city during Super Bowl week or the Final Four (high holy days in Las Vegas) if gamblers were sufficiently discouraged by queasy sports books. Believe me, those guys from the Comdex trade show are not the ones keeping the lights on.
The real hoot, anyway, is that it's extremely hard to tell dumb money from smart money. I was not draped in an Ohio State banner and was not holding a longneck, but what really pegged me as undesirable was that I wanted to bet the limit. Instead of thanking their stars that such a lunkhead existed, the sports book went wild with worry.
A fellow in a suit was suddenly called to the window. While he did not try to move the line, he halved the limit on the spot. All the while he kept looking behind him, where more people in suits sat, agitated by the action. Suddenly one of the managers flew up and said, "No bet." When I asked him to step forward and explain, he said I couldn't keep coming to the window to bet piecemeal. They'd take all the action I had, 20 bets even, but only at one time. He said that for now I'd shot my wad; they'd take no more bets from me.
The clerk appeared flabbergasted and rolled his eyes when I asked him if this was normal. By now it was 8:50 a.m., and Ohio State-Michigan was coming on. I had no particular interest in that game ( Kentucky, now there was a game), but I sat back to watch a bit. I noticed that the cocktail waitress, bless her heart, accepted my tip after she fetched my beer.
Oh. Kentucky lost by 20.