The bigger money is betting against Kentucky, but the Wildcats winning the national championship remains by far the worst-case scenario for one Las Vegas sportsbook.
Kentucky (34-0) needs six more wins to become the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to go undefeated. A Kentucky title would cost the William Hill sportsbook its largest loss on a single prop bet in the company's three-year history in Nevada.
Last summer, William Hill opened Kentucky at 50-1 to go undefeated. In August, there was a $500 bet on "Yes" at 50-1; in September, a $2,550 bet on "Yes" at 20-1 was placed; and money kept pouring in on "Yes." By the time the book closed the prop, 94 percent of the bets were on "Yes," and the odds were close to even. But the money tells a different story.
According to William Hill spokesman Michael Gordsky, the average size of a "No" bet is in the mid-four figures and includes a $9,250 bet at minus-185 placed on March 2. Fifty-four percent of the money wagered on the prop was on "No."
"'No' bets were steady coming in up through the weekend," Grodsky added.
The prop closed with the book facing a "pretty good six-figure" liability on Kentucky. Never fear, though, William Hill will survive if the Wildcats win. There will be opportunities to hedge and mitigate the liability during the tournament, but it is the largest single decision on a prop the book has faced, Grodsky said.
Kentucky is about an 11-10 favorite at most shops. The Wildcats winning it all wouldn't cost all books, though. The Westgate SuperBook, the Stratosphere and sportsbook operator CG Technology all said they would post a profit if the Wildcats won the tournament.
"Once Kentucky got into the minus-money range, the betting pretty much slowed down," SuperBook oddsmaker Ed Salmons said.
The SuperBook originally opened Kentucky at even money Sunday, but moved the Wildcats to 11-10 after taking "decent-size, four-figure" bets on Arizona, Virginia and Gonzaga. However, North Carolina State, thanks to a $300 bet at 2,000-1, is the SuperBook's worst-case scenario.
The Stratosphere is rooting against Gonzaga, and CG Technology would prefer that Duke didn't win it all.
"We took two big bets [on Duke], one to win $50,000 and the other a little smaller," said, Jason Simbal, CG Technology vice president of race and sports.
There's also these notable future bets at William Hill: On Nov. 2, a bettor threw $400 on Purdue to win the NCAA tournament at 500-1 odds. Five days later, someone thought Stephen F. Austin at 2,000-1 was a good bet and dropped $100 on the Lumberjacks. Around the Super Bowl, William Hill took $100 bets on New Mexico State and North Dakota State, a pair of 6,000-1 longshots. There's also a $5,000 bet on Maryland at 60-1, placed last week.
CG Technology was the first shop up with point spreads on the opening NCAA tournament games Sunday night. Simbal said they took early sharp action on Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan State, SMU, Maryland and Eastern Washington.