We are now going into Week 8 of the NFL season and by this point one can separate the good teams (New Orleans, Indy, etc) from the bad (St. Louis, Washington, Tampa Bay, etc). According to an article by Dan Wetzel, there is something very interesting happening with the NFL this year and it is in Vegas.
The NFL, and every other professional sports league, relies on the uncertainty of outcome of each individual game. Without that, the NFL is the WWE. For sports economists, uncertainty of outcome was commented on by early economists such as Rottenberg and Neale and has been a cornerstone of sport economic research when examining such things as competitive balance and attendance demand. Furthermore, betting on sports games creates interest in games that by themselves would not be as interesting.
This NFL season has been unlike any other NFL season. As Wetzel writes, the weak teams have been so bad that the oddsmakers have not been able to set a high enough line to balance the volume on each side of the spread. Unlike college games which Vegas will take off the board, NFL games rarely come off the board. The result has been big losses for Vegas odds makers in the first half of the season as they have failed to set odds high enough . The details that Wetzel provides is certainly work a quick read for people who are interested in sports betting and also talks about the illegal bookmakers.
Like all other trends, oddsmakers will adapt and certainly make their money by the end of the season. If one would believe the work that Levitt has done saying that oddsmakers do not attempt to balance the books, one might wonder if the oddsmakers are believe that gamblers will fall for the “This team cannot keep losing and have to win the game” theory and are setting odds closer to that thought (especially if it had been a dominate strategy used by gamblers in the past).