2018 Sports Betting Recap: Wild Wagers, Big Wins, and Massive Losses

Posted on: December 31, 2018, 08:00h. 

Last updated on: December 19, 2018, 06:36h.

The gaming industry will remember 2018 as the year the federal sports betting ban was repealed. The Supreme Court’s decision in May paved the way for states to join Nevada in offering full-fledged sports betting, and gamblers across the country made headlines by placing sizable bets.

sports betting 2018 March Madness Derek Stevens
D Casino owner Derek Stevens, known for his love of college basketball sports betting, nearly won $1 million on a $25,000 gamble. (Image: Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau)

Some of the bets were seemingly preposterous, and others were downright crazy. The wagers kept oddsmakers busy not only with their customers, but also with media outlets covering the stories.

Here’s a look back at some of the most talked-about sports bets in 2018.

March Madness

Downtown Las Vegas D Casino owner Derek Stevens is known for putting up a boatload of money on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

In 2018, he again bet $11,000 on each of the 32 First Round games. He accidentally bet one game twice, for a total wager of $363,000. He finished up $16,000.

But that’s pennies compared to the bet he cared most about: a $25,000 wager on his Michigan Wolverines to win it all. The bet was placed on 40/1 odds, and would have paid $1 million, but the team fell a game short when the Maize and Blue lost to Villanova in the National Championship.

Super Losses

The 2018 Super Bowl held in February between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots took in the most handle in Nevada sports betting history.

A total of $158,586,934 was wagered on the big game, and the Eagles’ upset of the favored Patriots led to oddsmakers keeping just $1.1 million, or a 0.7 percent win.

William Hill, the largest bookmaker in Nevada, said it had a multimillion-dollar loss. Boyd Gaming, Wynn Resorts, Station Casinos, and CG Technology all said they too were in the red.

There were at least four bets of $1 million or more placed on the underdog Eagles in Las Vegas.

Wild Warriors

The Golden State Warriors have unquestionably been the best team in the NBA over the last few years. For the 2018 NBA Finals, they were heavily favored against LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers. In fact, the Cavs opened as the biggest underdog in 16 years at +650 (implied odds of 13 percent).

That didn’t keep bettors away, as Las Vegas reported numerous six-figure bets on the Warriors that pushed the line to +750. The Warriors swept the Cavs in four games.

This fall, a gambler risked $67,000 on the Warriors making the 2019 NBA Playoffs. The ticket will net $670.

Knights Lit Up Vegas

Las Vegas became a major professional sports city when the NHL Vegas Golden Knights dropped the puck for the 2017-18 season. The first-year expansion team wasn’t supposed to be any good.

Oddsmakers opened their Stanley Cup line as long as 500/1, but bettors printed tickets. Sportsbook directors considered the wagers little more than souvenirs, but it quickly became apparent that the Golden Knights were no ordinary expansion team.

Vegas set a 24-year-old win record for an expansion team with 51 wins, topping the previous record by 17 games. The Golden Knights also became the first NHL team to reach the playoffs in their inaugural campaign since the 1979-80 season.

Of course, they also reached the Stanley Cup Final against the Washington Capitals. A $60 bet on 500/1 would have netted $30,000. A $400 bet on 300/1 would have returned $120,000. Estimates projected oddsmakers stood to lose up to $10 million on a Golden Knights title, but the Caps prevailed in five games.