Football fans might have cheered at the ending of Sunday’s Minnesota-New Orleans NFC Divisional playoff game, but the outcome elicited a chorus of boos from gamblers and oddsmakers.
Most of the bettors who were holding winning tickets with 10 seconds remaining watched in horror as the Vikings scored a last-second touchdown to ruin betting slips and parlay cards.
“When that touchdown was scored the noise coming from the sports book was incredible,” said one casino employee who works at a Station Casino off the Las Vegas Strip. “I knew it was about the game and knew it was bad. I went over there and quickly realized how bad it was.”
When Minnesota’s Stefon Diggs caught a pass from quarterback Case Keenum and ran into the end zone untouched for a 61-year touchdown to give the Vikings a 29-25 victory as time expired it sent a lot of unhappy gamblers home with empty pockets.
Flip Flop Game
The contest opened at 3 ½ points and by midweek had bumped up to four in the Vikings favor. By Sunday’s 3:40 p.m. local start the line had jumped to five points and at some places 5 ½. That was enough to swing a bunch of last-minute money on the Saints.
It looked like the Vikings were going to win easily, building a 17-0 lead at halftime but the Saints mounted a comeback in the second half. The team traded leads three times in the last three minutes of the game. The Saints were up 24-23 with 25 seconds and those who had bet them with points and straight up looked like they were going to cash.
One bettor at a William Hill facility had placed a $150,000 bet on the money line and according to ESPN looked to double it if the Saints held on and won outright. CG Technology also took a straight up bet in the six figures.
With 10 seconds until the end it collecting seemed certain but then the miraculous touchdown came and stunned even the most jaded gambler.
“That will go down in the bookmaker hall of fame as one of the biggest swings ever in a game,” Frank Kunovic, director of specialty games for Caesars Entertainment told ESPN.
Kick to Bettor’s Teeth
Gamblers who took Minnesota or New Orleans and five points pushed, at least they thought they did. Since the game ended in regulation and not in overtime NFL rules require that a PAT be attempted.
There was so much pandemonium on the field with reporters, photographers, players and team personnel that referees had to spend several minutes clearing the field.
Then someone had to go to the Saints locker room and tell them they needed to send some players out for the PAT.
If the kick was good then those who had the Saints and 5 went from a push to a win, those with Minnesota minus five went from a push to a loss and those bettors with the Vikings less 5 ½ went from losers to winners. The team chose to kneel down and sacrifice the point, much to the dismay of those holding out hope their fortunes would change.
“Millions and millions of dollars exchanged hands when they kneeled down at goal line,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, oddsmaker at the South Point Casino told the Associated Press.