Las Vegas Sportsbooks Lose Big on Clemson’s Stunning Upset Over Alabama

Posted on: January 10, 2017, 12:29h. 

Last updated on: January 10, 2017, 12:29h.

Las Vegas sportsbooks are on a roll, but it’s not a streak they desire. Fresh off the Wild Card round of the NFL Playoffs where all four favorites covered the spread, oddsmakers in Nevada are licking their wounds this morning after the Clemson Tigers pulled off a stunning upset of the Alabama Crimson Tide during last night’s College Football Playoff (CFP) National Championship.

Las Vegas sportsbooks Clemson Deshaun Watson
Sweet revenge. After losing to the same team a year ago in the National Championship, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson delivered the Tigers its first title since 1981, and a stunning blow to Las Vegas sportsbooks. (Image: John Bazemore/Associated Press)

The one-loss Tigers entered the title rematch as a 6.5-point underdog against coach Nick Saban’s unbeaten defending national champions. At halftime, all was going as planned as Alabama held a touchdown lead over the team from South Carolina.

Heisman Trophy runner-up Deshaun Watson seemed off his game at quarterback. The Alabama defense was rolling on all cylinders and kept the superstar QB from breaking big plays.

But football games require two halves, and more importantly, a fourth quarter. Clemson entered the final period down 24-14, still outside the spread for Las Vegas sportsbooks.

The last 12 minutes saw Clemson score 21 points including a last-second touchdown pass from Watson to slot receiver Hunter Renfrow for the win. In what was an instant classic, the Tigers won the National Championship 35-31 over the Crimson Tide.

“That was one of the greatest games of all time,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “There was no upset tonight. That’s the last thing I told them when we left the locker room.”

Bettors Win Big

Following Clemson’s embarrassment of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the CFP Semifinals, sports bettors rushed to Sin City to take odds on Clemson in the National Championship. William Hill took a $100,000 bet on the Tiger being given 6.5 points, and the Westgate SuperBook said of the first $11,020 wagered on the title rematch, just $20 was on Alabama.

William Hill said about 3.5 times more money was wagered on the Tigers than Alabama. And while the average bet was smaller on Clemson than those who took Alabama, more gamblers took the Tigers, and the wagers added up.

The CFP was a losing affair for sportsbooks in Nevada. The vast majority of bets in the semis were placed on Alabama and Clemson, both of which covered the spread.

On NFL, Too

Monday night’s college football finale brings to a close three dismal days for Silver State oddsmakers. The first round of the NFL Playoffs was the most uneven Wild Card weekend in more than 35 years.

With each favorite covering the spread, sportsbooks lost heavily on parlay tickets where bettors combine games into a single bet. Parlays have substantially higher payoffs since to win the individual must correctly pick multiple games, not unlike in horse racing.

The upcoming weekend, at least in theory, presents more enticing matchups for the books. The Divisional Round pairs the 10-5 Seahawks against the 11-5 Falcons, the 11-5 Steelers and the 12-4 Chiefs, and the 10-6 Packers visiting the 13-3 Cowboys.

The only seemingly lopsided game is the 9-7 Texans at the 14-2 Patriots. New England is currently a more than two touchdown favorite.