In Super Bowl: Patriots’ winning image creates a challenge for sports books By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports January 28, 2019 at 8:00 pm Everyone knows songwriter Randy Newman loves L.A. But Rams fans? Not so much. At least, not so much that they rushed out to Nevada’s sports books to bet on their favorite team against the New England Patriots in Sunday’s Super Bowl LIII. Despite the team’s remarkable success throughout the season, and proximity to the biggest sports books in America, the wagering flow has been steadily toward the Patriots’ side. After four decades at the top of the sports book industry, you’d think nothing would surprise Art Manteris. But the Station Casinos vice president of race and sports operations says he thought he’d see stronger support for the Rams from their Super Bowl-starved fans. Station Casinos VP of Race Sports Art Manteris (photo via LV Review-Journal) “Maybe I overestimated that connection to Los Angeles in expecting to get L.A. money,” Manteris says during a brief break in the action as he and the rest of Nevada bookmaking fraternity prepared for the biggest game of the year. “I see no evidence of a surge so far. It’s possible the Rams haven’t been in Los Angeles long enough to have as big a fan base.” But, he adds, there are other factors to consider, not the least of which is the Tom Brady-led Patriots’ reputation for coming through in the big game. While New England is far from perfect – Brady’s record is 5-3 – the Rams have been watching the Super Bowl on television for years. Love them or hate them, in the Bill Belichik era the Patriots are synonymous with the Super Bowl. But that doesn’t mean New England is the superior team. In fact, Manteris says, the Rams performed better during the season and, fan betting action aside, would be a slight favorite, about 1.5 points, on a neutral field and going solely by the numbers. But that’s what makes the Super Bowl with its crush of wagering action so much fun — if you happen to be a fan of sky-high betting handle and the pressure to match. As ever in the Super Bowl, the masses are speaking. “The general public, in all ways, wants the game before it goes to three, and the wiseguys want it at 3,” Manteris says. The sports book operators were reminded of the fact shortly after the line went up, and Manteris’ cousin, the South Point sports book director Chris Andrews, moved the line to 3 for a total of 17 minutes. It didn’t take 17 seconds for the action to shift from the fans to the sharp players, who aren’t always right but usually have the best information and most educated ideas. “He (Andrews) told me the wiseguys came running out of the back of the room,” Manteris says, laughing. “Some guys were just charging up to the counter to get down as much as they could.” Pulses subsided when Andrews returned the line to the previous number. That’s one of the many funny things about trying to ride the Super Bowl elephant all the way to Sunday. Fans watch the NFL all season long, but they were most influenced by what the watch in the final couple playoff games. That, Manteris says, is mostly likely what made those Rams fans pause before reaching for their wallets. In the AFC title game, the Patriots were Belichik’s well-oiled and unflappable machine in defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime. The Rams, somewhat infamously, took advantage of a blown pass-interference call to nip New Orleans with a 57-yard field goal in overtime. Those impressions are lasting, but Manteris reminds me about the Rams’ superior overall record, especially on the road, and enormously potent offense. “The Rams were a quality team the entire season,” he says, while the Patriots spent a lot of time answering critics who obsessed on their age. For his part, Manteris has had a hand in the hard-fought transition of legalized bookmaking from the last pariah in the gaming industry to the newest trend in its expansion. From an apprenticeship with the of the best minds in the business, including his uncle “Pittsburgh Jack” Franzi, through years spent developing the Las Vegas Hilton’s trendsetting SuperBook, into the era of expansion and the widespread use of phone apps and mobile accounts, it’s been a long journey. And after all that, it all still boils down to this. “It’s still so easy to make mistakes,” Manteris frets. “It’s easy to let emotion and pride get the better of you. After 40 years, the key is to stick to the game plan, don’t let emotions, pride or personal handicapping interfere with the proper bookmaking.” Then he adds a line he’s repeated dozens of times before, “There’s a little football game coming that has our attention.” Seasons come and go, but that part never gets old. Contact John L. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.