Baseball betting booms at sportsbooks on opening weekend

The $100,000 baseball bets, one after another, started coming in over the weekend at the sportsbook at Borgata, the last casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic.

As the first weekend of the baseball season wound down, Borgata had taken roughly the equivalent of three weeks of normal MLB betting handle in just three days -- despite the casino being limited to only 25% capacity.

"It's been very impressive," Tom Gable, Borgata director of race and sports, told ESPN on Sunday, the first day the casino was fully open to the general public after an invite-only event the previous days. "Today, we took six different six-figure wagers. Yesterday, we had five six-figure wagers made."

Sportsbooks around the nation felt the pent-up demand of baseball bettors. William Hill U.S. and the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas each said that Saturday, which featured a 15-game baseball slate and a UFC event, was their largest day in terms of amount wagered since essentially all major sports shut down as the pandemic took hold in mid-March.

"It exceeded expectations," Jeff Sherman, vice president of risk for the SuperBook, said. "We've got lines at the [betting] windows. ... Obviously, they're spaced out, but there's more people coming in to bet."

At DraftKings, more money was wagered on Thursday's season-opener between the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals than had been bet on any baseball game in the sportsbook's two-year history.

Saturday's games between the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets and the Yankees and Nationals ranked in the top 10 of DraftKings' most-heavily bet baseball games, according to head of sportsbook Johnny Avello.

"The handle on baseball, I thought it was going to be great, and it is great," Avello said Sunday.

The betting public got off to a hot start on Thursday and Friday, with favorites going a combined 14-2.

"If the early results are any indication, I wish baseball would [have] stayed out," Chris Andrews, a veteran Las Vegas bookmaker of the South Point casino, joked Saturday morning on Twitter.

Underdogs battled back over the weekend to help the bookmakers keep the lights on heading into one of the busiest Augusts the U.S. sports world has ever experienced. In addition to baseball, the NBA and NHL are gearing up for their playoffs in the coming weeks, and golf's first major of the revised season, the PGA Championship, tees off Aug. 6.

"It's going to be probably the biggest August we've ever seen," Sherman said. "That's a good thing. It's great."