Las Vegas sportsbooks take big loss on Clemson Tigers' victory

ByDavid Purdum ESPN logo
Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The amount of money bet on the College Football Playoff championship game was historic and primarily orange.

More money was bet on Monday's classic betweenClemsonandAlabamaat William Hill's Nevada sportsbook than any othercollegefootball game in the company's history, according to vice president of marketing Michael Grodsky.

Bookmakers estimated $15 million to $20 million was bet statewide on the game in Nevada.

The bulk of the money was on the underdog Tigers, who scored a touchdown with one second left in the fourth quarter to upend Alabama 35-31.

It cost William Hill a seven-figure loss and was the "single worst loss on any game ever" for the company.

"It was as bad as a result as humanly possible," William Hill director of trading Nick Bogdanovich, a veteran Las Vegas bookmaker, told ESPN on Tuesday morning.

Bill Sattler, director of specialty games for Caesars Entertainment, said Clemson winning in a high-scoring game produced "the worst loss in any college football game I can remember."

The majority of sports books were heavy on Clemson throughout the week. The money started coming in on the Tigers shortly after they demolished Ohio State on New Year's Eve. At the Westgate SuperBook, out of the first $11,020 that was wagered on the national championship game's money line, $11,000 of it was on Clemson. The orange money never slowed down, leaving sportsbooks rooting for Alabama. Out of 12 sportsbooks -- in Las Vegas and in the Caribbean -- not one of them said they needed for Dabo Swinney's team. They were all Crimson Tide fans.

The worst-case scenario for the house? Clemson and over the total of 51.

MGM characterized the loss it took on the game as "high six figures," which included three six-figure bets on Clemson plus-the-points and a $55,000 money-line bet on the Tigers at around +180 odds.

"Alabama money finally showed up right before kickoff," Jeff Stoneback, assistant manager for MGM race and sports, said. "But it was too late."

Clemson closed as a consensus 6-point underdog to Alabama. At William Hill, the game attracted more than double the amount of money compared to how much was bet on the New York Giants-Green Bay Packers wild-card game. Betting handle was up 8 percent on this year's game compared to the 2016 championship game between the Tigers and Tide.

Johnny Avello, executive director at the Wynn race and sportsbook, said Clemson's win delivered a low six-figure blow to his shop.

"The money I had on the Clemson money line overwhelmed everything else," Avello said.

Las Vegas sportsbook operator CG Technology reported a net loss, but said Clemson winning was its best-case scenario in its futures markets on the odds to win the national title.

Up and down the Las Vegas Strip, bookmakers were on the losing end on the most-heavily bet college football game in recent memory.

A message from one bookmaker right after Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson connected with Hunter Renfrow for the winning touchdown summed it up simply: "Ouch."

The sportsbooks did, however, manage to open for business on Tuesday.

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