Las Vegas is synonymous with elaborate productions and internationally acclaimed spectacles. Saturday night the entire sports world will turn its attention to the Vegas strip where the Grand Garden Arena at MGM hosts a title fight 5 years in the making between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. For those new to the gambling game, Floyd is a consensus -200 favorite (risk $2 to make $1) with Manny as a modest underdog of +170 (risk $1 to make $1.70). Oddsmakers believe the fight will also go the distance, pegging the over/under rounds prop at 11.5 with substantial juice ($3.20 to win $1) required for bettors anticipating an outcome determined by the judge's scorecards.
On Wednesday I had a chance to sit down with Jay Rood, Vice President of Race and Sports for the MGM/Mirage properties and a major player in this weekend's festivities. Rood and his team will take in some of the biggest bets anywhere in the city, expecting to do a lion's share of betting handle at his family of properties that include not only MGM but also the Mirage, Bellagio, and Aria just to name a few. Estimates for money that could be wagered range from $50M on the low-end to upwards of $80M for the optimistic sorts. To put this figure in perspective, the fight could potentially generate 2/3 of the betting volume we saw on this year's Superbowl...minus the myriad of prop bet offerings. Fight projections, if met, would easily surpass the amount of dollars bettors put into action for the NFC or AFC championships making Mayweather/Pacquiao the second most heavily bet sporting event in Nevada this year.
"Boxing has an appeal that the UFC just can't match. Events like this bring people out that want to see the action but may not want to see the bloodshed we see inside the cage. The history of the sport just does something special and it energizes the entire city," Rood admitted during our chat. It's hard to argue with Rood's perspective on the place boxing still occupies in the Vegas event food chain. The UFC desperately lacks the star power that used to drive betting handle and buzz when iconic figures like Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, and Tito Ortiz took to the Octagon.
As the host property for an event of this magnitude, MGM properties offer their casino customers an experience other strip resorts struggle to match; unprecedented access to the fight and event seats on fight night most of us could only dream of occupying. MGM properties will be packed to the gills with high worth casino customers, a handful of whom are already inquiring about Rood's appetite to accept 7 figure wagers. Rood told me the only fight that garnered even a fraction of this attention during his tenure was the Mike Tyson against Evander Holyfield clash...the infamous bite night. Boxing hasn't had fighters with this kind of buzz behind them getting into the ring together in years and given the current state of affairs in the European dominated heavyweight division, it's anyone's guess when we'll see something close to Saturday night's clash involving an American fighter again (a potential rematch not withstanding).
The other major question inevitably asked by fight fans and gamblers alike on a night like this is what potential outcome provides the biggest scare for the casino? In this case the conspiracy theorists have spoken, mainly with their share of wallet, pouring money in on the draw, taking the opening price of 22-1 all the way down to 6-1 where it currently sits. Rood wouldn't classify the money coming in on the draw outcome prop as "sharp" but did say when those with deep pockets keep piling on regardless of the price any bookmaker facing 7 figure liability is forced to respond accordingly. With every "doomsday" scenario for the house there's obviously an optimal result as well. In this case that scenario would be Mayweather taking the fight by decision. Rood did tell me that as long as this fight didn't end in a draw any result would be better than the infamous Frankie Randall defeat of Julio Cesar Chavez that saw casinos paying out a plethora of 10-1 tickets on the underdog well into the wee hours of the Vegas morning, a night that still resonates with him 23 years into his sportsbook career.
As for Rood where will he be watching the fight? Well probably at a combination of venues including his desk nestled back behind the big screens at Mirage or rubbing shoulders with invited guests in the various viewing parties MGM hosts on Saturday night. Don't worry too much about Rood come late Saturday night; he told me with a grin on his face that win or lose he'd have a glass of red wine at home once he finished his reports, hopefully after putting the finishing touches on a profitable night for the house.
Regardless of the wagering that will take place across the city, events as big as what we'll see in Vegas Saturday are second to none. It's an energized crowd from the moment fans roll into town seeking not only to bet the fight but plunk down money on the Derby, NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs, and regular season baseball games as well. Rood said he expects it to be a scene unlike any other, a "great day" for the books knowing how race and sports culture is deeply indebted to the boxing and horse racing that laid the foundation for current sports gambling trends. It's not often in the current day and age, aside from the first Saturday in May, that the ponies and pugilists command sports headlines.
MY PICK: I'm not exactly going out on a limb here claiming Money Mayweather will keep his unblemished professional record in tact but that's the only way to handicap this fight. I believe waiting until the 23rd hour, especially for those in Vegas, may allow you to lay Floyd at -185 or maybe a slightly shorter price than that. Regardless it appears that the closing line on Floyd will be one of the shortest prices we've seen on the champ since his Cinco De Mayo bout with Oscar De La Hoya back in 2007.
Below is a list of prices we've seen listed on Floyd over his last 15 bouts.
Odds courtesy of Oddshark.