Vegas expects fewer World Cup bets with U.S. failing to qualify

Nevada sportsbooks are expecting a 15-30 percent decrease in betting handle on the 2018 World Cup, with the United States men's national team failing to qualify for next year's tournament.

Some books are afraid the drop-off could be more severe.

"It's going to be crickets," said Jay Rood, vice president of race and sports for MGM. "I just think the overall awareness is going to be way down."

The 2018 World Cup kicks off June 14 in Russia. It will be the first World Cup without the U.S. since 1986.

Betting interest on the World Cup had surged in the past tournaments, Nevada bookmakers said. The 2014 World Cup that saw the U.S. advance to the knockout stage fueled record handle at multiple regulated sportsbooks in the state.

Nevada Gaming Control does not track the amount wagered on soccer separately in its monthly sports revenue reports, and, instead, includes it in an "other" category, along with golf, tennis, MMA, boxing and auto racing. In addition, with the tournament lasting from mid-June to mid-July, it's difficult to get specific amounts of how much is wagered, but it's easy to see the World Cup's impact.

During the 2014 World Cup, $87 million was bet on the "other" category in June and July, compared to only $26.3 million in those months in 2013.

Jeff Sherman, an assistant manager at the Westgate SuperBook, who oversees the property's soccer odds, expects a 15-20 percent decrease in handle, without the U.S. in the field. He estimates a match involving the U.S. generates as much as four times the amount of betting handle that a match without the Americans draws, but says the impact of the U.S. not qualifying will be most evident in the betting on the odds to win the tournament.

"[The U.S.] was No. 1 in ticket count and money bet probably just about every place in town last time, and they would have been again this time," Sherman said.

Nevada books have had odds to win the 2018 World Cup posted for several years. German and France are co-favorites at 5-1.

More bets had been placed on the U.S. than any other team at the Westgate. All bets are action on World Cup futures, meaning the money wagered on the U.S. will be staying with the books.