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Las Vegas oddsmakers hopeful NFL, college football start on time

Las Vegas oddsmakers are cautiously optimistic that the NFL and college football seasons will start on time.

But odds posted at offshore sportsbooks are stacked against college football starting Aug. 29 and the NFL opening Sept. 10 as scheduled.

“I think, or hope at least, that it’s 50-50. Which equates to -110 on both sides,” USBookmaking sportsbook director Robert Walker said. “This assumes the ability or the desire to play before empty arenas. Otherwise, I don’t see it happening this year.

“There are a ton of caveats in that every day gets us closer to treatments which may allow games to be played on time.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, outlined a path Tuesday for the return of major American sports without fans.

“There’s a way of doing that,” Fauci said on Snapchat. “Nobody comes to the stadium. Put (the players) in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled. … Have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family and just let them play the season out.”

Against all odds

Will the college football season begin Aug. 29? No is the -385 favorite at offshore book BetCris, and Yes is a +318 underdog.

Will the NFL season begin Sept. 10? No is -193, and Yes is +167.

“For these odds, we have been receiving action on No from sharps,” BetCris chief operating officer Oscar Brenes said. “However, the government and states are wanting to get the economy up and running again.

“We are looking at the lapsed time of leagues in Europe and China to see the behavior. … a big difference is the professional athletes need to get paid, in contrast with the line of college students willing to take a risk.”

Longtime Las Vegas oddsmaker and handicapper Kenny White expects both football seasons to start on time.

“It seems like a nice price on the Yes to me in college football and the NFL,” said White (KennyWhiteSports.com). “It looks like the (COVID-19) numbers are starting to plateau. If it keeps going the way it’s going, you’ve got to believe in another four weeks we’re going to be able to start opening things up again. If that happens, kids can work out and college kids can get to campus in July and college football can start on time and the NFL can start on time.

“I don’t know about preseason. I think the NFL will switch to a two-game preseason. That would be the smartest thing they can do this year. And both will play with no fans.”

Edge to NFL

Sunset Station sportsbook director Chuck Esposito and Circa sportsbook manager Chris Bennett give the NFL better odds to start on time than college football.

Esposito noted that some schools, such as Oklahoma, have suspended in-person activities on campus until July 31, which would delay the start of training camp.

“A lot can change, but that would really preclude them from starting on time. So some local legislators would have to overturn that,” Esposito said. “At this point, pro football has a better chance at starting on time or closer to on time.”

Also, conference commissioners told Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday that no college sporting events would be played until students are cleared to return to campuses.

Hopeful signs

There have been two promising sports developments this week. UFC president Dana White said Tuesday he’s planning his next event for May 9 at an undisclosed location, and the PGA Tour announced Thursday a revised 28-event schedule that will start June 11 with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas.

Providing the UFC card takes place as scheduled, Westgate sportsbook director John Murray said the book will reopen its mobile sports betting app a day or two before the event.

“More than anything, we want everybody to be safe. But we really want sports to get back,” Murray said. “We’re certainly hoping there will be fights on May 9. I think it would be good for everybody if we get some of our major sports leagues going again, although probably not with crowds.

“I think that the professional football and college football seasons will start on time. But that might just be me being optimistic. I just want to get back to normal so badly.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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