David Purdum of ESPN Chalk joined us this week to talk about the South Carolina-Missouri game and a statistic that would truly frighten me if I was a football administrator on any level.
The State: This line started the week with South Carolina as a 6-point favorite. Where does it stand now?
Purdum: It’s bumped up to 7 at just about every sports book there is. I know Missouri has struggled, but South Carolina looks like they’re improving, too. It’s an interesting line, interesting game.
The State: South Carolina’s power rating at the Las Vegas sports books was clearly very low to start the year. How much do the casinos adjust those rankings once a season has started?
Purdum: They are very slow to react, very conservative. They have their base numbers, which were based on their talent at the start of the year. They will factor in injuries and quarterback changes like South Carolina has, but almost always you will see that the reaction from Vegas is maybe a lot less than maybe the general reaction of the public to a team. So coming off a big win over Tennessee, the public probably gets more fired up than the actual books do.
The State: We’ve heard a lot about how NFL ratings are down this year, but you tell me that football gambling is down as well, right?
Purdum: Nevada Gaming Control released the numbers for September for football betting and there was $5 million less bet on football this year than last September. Kind of like the television ratings, there are a bunch of factors. The books did really good first of all in September and whenever they do well, people don’t have any more money to bet so there’s not that churn that you get the inflated handle numbers. It is notable because the last six years they have set records with the amount of bets that have been bet in Nevada sports books, so to see that drop in that first month is kind of notable.
The State: That feels more significant to me than the TV ratings because the ratings can kind of be explained away by the election and the Chicago Cubs being in the playoffs, etc., but the betting thing indicates to me that people are losing a little bit of interest in football. Am I going too far with that?
Purdum: I don’t think you’re going too far. You can also see that the handle on baseball and basketball last year went up, while the overall handle on football went down, so maybe there is a little bit of narrowing of the gap where football has been such a dominant force – “the lifeblood of the sports book” they call it. Maybe we are seeing that gap narrow with the other sports.
The State: Was boxing a heavily bet sport in its heyday?
Purdum: Oh yeah, absolutely. Back in the ’80s, even during the ’90s with Tyson coming up, it was huge, huge event. It was a big deal. Now, MMA is much more heavily bet than boxing.