Lack of Fans Perplexes Betting Market, Sports Can Resume in CA, TX

Written by:
Don Shapiro
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When oddsmakers determine a line on a particular game typically home field or court advantage is provided with a 2 to 3-point swing.  Case in point, the Green Bay Packers will face the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1 of the 2020 regular season.  Assuming a neutral field, the Packers and Vikings power ranking were about the same at the conclusion of the 2019 regular season (24.0 to 25.0).  With the game being played in Minnesota, it's not surprising that books opened the Week 1 line at -3.

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While familiarity with the field plays into the home field advantage, much of that 3 point shift involves fan engagement.  So what to do without spectators in this age of coronavirus?

The consensus among oddsmakers is to start by valuing home field at 1.5 to 2 points and then see where the market takes it, writes Marcus DiNitto of  

“Very, very slight,” the South Point’s Chris Andrews told BetChicago when asked by DiNitto how he plans to weigh home field. “Probably, as a benchmark, 1.5 or 2 points. I don’t know what it’s going to be like. I’ve talked to some guys that think it’s worth 0. Some guys think it’s going to be worth just what it always has been, because travel might be more difficult, that sort of thing. But right now, I’m kind of putting it in the middle. … I’m thinking mostly 1.5. It depends – if you have West Coast (team) going to the East Coast, it might be worth 2, but that tends to get overrated a little bit.” 

Home advantage is much stronger in college games, basketball and football, according to Darren Rovell of the Action Network. For college basketball the advantage is 68 percent and for football it's 63 percent.  In comparison, with Major League Baseball and the NFL it is slightly better than 50 percent. 

“I do think I would adjust the totals,” Avello said, adding he’d bump them a tad higher,” DraftKings oddsmaker Johnny Avello told Rovell. 

Why the totals? 

“I just think there’s going to be more scoring,” Avello said. “Players to me are going to be less nervous and more focused.” 

“Some players are fantastic in a rec gym and don’t care who is cheering for them,” said the Action Network’s Collin Wilson, senior college football analyst and gatekeeper of their power ratings. “And some players won’t be able to get that adrenaline they are used to if they don’t have a crowd.” 

California is now seeing a scenario where sports can return to the state in early June, minus spectators.

"Sporting events, pro sports, in that first week or so of June—without spectators and [with] modifications and very prescriptive conditions—can also begin to move forward," California Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday.

Newsom's decision came the same day Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced he will allow professional sports to return on or after May 31.

The NBA, NHL and MLB continue to mull their options for resuming or starting their seasons amid the coronavirus pandemic. The NHL and NHLPA are reportedly "making progress" on a plan that would allow the 2019–20 season to resume with a 24-team format. 

- Don Shapiro,

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