The NFL preseason kicked off Thursday, and the betting public's affection for football was on display all over Las Vegas.
More bets were placed on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game between the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears at William Hill sportsbook than on the day's baseball games. The first preseason football game attracted nearly twice as many bets as New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox did Thursday. Sportsbooks said the money wagered on Ravens-Bears was comparable to the day's most-heavily-bet baseball games.
The Ravens beat the Bears 17-16 but failed to cover the spread in a game decided by a late, unsuccessful two-point conversion. The over/under total closed at 35 at most sportsbooks.
Chris Andrews, sportsbook director at South Point, said his shop took a $10,000 wager on the under that cashed after Chicago quarterback Tyler Bray's pass fell incomplete on a potential go-ahead two-point conversion with 2:44 left in the game. The big bet highlighted the betting handle on football, which Andrews said rivaled the amount wagered on anything on the day's 12-game baseball slate.
"It wasn't the biggest," said Andrews of the action on the first NFL preseason game, "but it was among the biggest."
Andrews, who's been booking in Nevada since the late 1970s, said the betting interest in the NFL preseason has always been strong and can be challenging to manage from a bookmaker's perspective, especially when news breaks that, for example, a starting quarterback will receive more snaps than expected.
"Usually it's Week 2 or 3 when an announcement comes out about who's going to get more time," Andrews said. "That's when [sharp bettors] just flood you, and then the price gets out of whack, and then some of the other sharps come in the other way. That's what we love."
The full Week 1 of the preseason will kick off Thursday with 12 games. The regular seasons begin Sept. 6, when the Atlanta Falcons visit the defending-champion Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are listed as 4-point favorites at most books.