With more than two decades of experience at some of the most prominent sportsbooks on the Las Vegas Strip, Jay Rood is widely regarded as one of the brightest minds in the U.S. legal sports betting industry.
Before the 2019 NCAA tournament, Rood, then VP of Race and Sports at MGM Resorts, offered a creative “First to 15 points” prop wager at MGM’s properties throughout the Strip. A year earlier, Maryland-Baltimore County had shocked the sports world with a 20-point thrashing of Virginia, becoming the first 16-seed to ever defeat a 1-seed in tournament history.
The prop gave bettors an opportunity to back a double-digit underdog in the early stages of a game, before the cream rose to the top. The Cavaliers, again a 1-seed, fell behind 30-16 to Gardner-Webb, rewarding backers of the Bulldogs on the prop. Virginia, the eventual national champion, then outscored Gardner-Webb 55-26 from that point forward, producing an easy win.
“It was a weird dynamic to watch in a sportsbook, some of the biggest cheers were when one of the dogs hit 15 first,” Rood told CO Bets. “Some of those dogs were +300, +400 — they would lose their minds and cheer insanely for the dog to hit 15, then immediately turn on a dime and root for the favorites to cover the game spread.”
The top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers are +345 in live-betting right now at the U12 timeout vs UMBC! For those who are in gambling, this is the most surreal line you will ever see! #MarchMadness (Offshore odds courtesy of 5Dimes.) pic.twitter.com/dfBNptDcWw
— The Fully Vaccinated™ Gambling QB (@TheGamblingQB) March 17, 2018
Creative props at books throughout Colorado
Now in his third year as chief risk officer at Bet.works, Rood has brought such creativity to the sports betting platform provider, which counts several Colorado sportsbooks among its top clients. Earlier this month, Rood’s team proposed a bevy of props to the Colorado Division of Gaming, which in turn, approved the wagers in the division’s Catalog of Sports Events and Wagers. Among them:
- What will be the sum of all four seeds at the Final Four?
- Will a No. 12 seed advance past a No. 5 seed? (YES/NO)
- Wins by a select conference in a given round
- Team to score the most points in a selected round (i.e. Sweet 16)
Less than 72 hours after Selection Sunday, Rood indicated that Colorado bettors have demonstrated a strong appetite for the props and the tournament in general. As of Tuesday afternoon, Colorado represented about 40% of Bet.works’ overall handle, an impressive figure considering the company also serves sportsbooks in New Jersey, Indiana, and Iowa.
Bet.works provides odds and risk management services to Elite Gaming, which partners with Red Dolly Casino in Central City and theScore Bet, which gained market access in Colorado through a partnership with The Gilpin Hotel in Black Hawk.
This year’s tournament represents a key milestone for the Colorado sports betting market, marking the first time legal sportsbooks in the Centennial State will accept wagers on the tournament. The American Gaming Association estimates that more than 47 millions Americans will place a wager on March Madness, a tournament that has become the largest event by handle on the U.S. sports betting calendar.
Here is a comprehensive breakdown of promotions, betting trends, and unique offerings available to Coloradans for this year’s March Madness.
Barstool Sports/Penn National
When it comes to March Madness, who doesn’t love a good buzzer beater? Barstool Sports bettors can capitalize on the most exciting part of the tournament with a promotion where fans can win bonuses up to 8X the bet amount, depending on the number of buzzer beaters in the tournament. Barstool is also offering $75 added on four different futures bets for new signups; boosted odds for all Big Ten teams that make the Final Four; and multiple prop bets.
For Thursday night’s First Four matchup between Michigan State and UCLA, wagers on the Spartans comprise about 90% of the handle, said Nick Epstein, sportsbook manager for Monarch Casino Resort Spa. Winthrop has emerged as one of the more popular underdogs for the Round of 64, while BetMonarch took a four-figure wager on Eastern Washington against Kansas, a double-digit favorite.
Among futures bets on the team to win the national championship, Illinois, Michigan, Florida State, Colorado, and Gonzaga have been Monarch’s most popular plays. BetMonarch lists Colorado at 16/1 to win the East Region and 100/1 to win the tournament. The book has seen considerable early action on Colorado in numerous markets. “In fact, nearly every first-round parlay involves we’ve taken involves CU,” Epstein told CoBets, via email.
New users who sign up and wager $500 in the BetMonarch app will receive a $50 resort credit. Users who wager $1,000 in the app will receive a free hotel stay, while users who wager $5,000 in the app will receive a $250 resort credit.
As of Tuesday afternoon, BetMGM had taken the most bets (both by handle and count) on tournament favorite Gonzaga, and it had seen positive line movement on Gonzaga, Michigan, Illinois, Alabama, and Loyola.
BetMGM also has a perfect bracket challenge and will pay out $2 million for a perfect bracket, or $100,000 to those who are the closest to perfect. The company is also offering plenty of prop bets and straight bets. Included on the list are prop bets on the seed of the winning team and on how many 1-seeds will make the Final Four.
Among the specials BetMGM is offering is “Buzzer Beater Insurance,” meaning that if your team loses on a shot in the last five seconds, your bet (up to $20) will be refunded.
BetRivers is offering boosted odds on a variety of bets for March Madness, including betting if Baylor or Iowa score the most points during the tournament and if 1-seeds Baylor, Gonzaga, and Michigan all reach the Final Four.
Bettors in Colorado should check BetRivers daily during the tournament, as the company will reveal a new offer daily. The first Mystery Madness bet is on whether any First Four or First Round game will have a total of 180 points or more. Odds for this bet were boosted from +100 to +150.
Besides its Millionaire Bracket in which $2 million in prize money will be awarded, DraftKings is offering myriad bet boosts throughout the tournament, including on parlays, for new bettors, and on the MSU-UCLA game. The company is also offering insurance on bets for losing teams that score 75 points or more.
DraftKings said its biggest wager to date is $2,450 at 7/1 odds on Gonzaga to win it all. The payout would be $16,841.23.
In Colorado, as of Tuesday, the most-bet conference in terms of handle and bet count was the Big Ten, which DraftKings said is also the national trend, but the most-bet team on the state’s Colorado platform was CU, for both handle and number of wagers.
FanDuel is offering an assortment of March Madness specials in Colorado and at other books across the country. Among the wagers available are “Will a 12-seed beat a 5-seed?” “Will a First Four team get to the Round of 16?” and how many No. 1 seeds will get into the Final Four. For those in Colorado taking the 5 vs. 12 seed promo, that could be a bet against 5-seed Colorado, which plays 12-seed Georgetown in the first round on Friday.
With a victory over the Hoyas, Colorado will face either 4-seed Florida State or 13-seed UNC Greensboro in the Round of 32. As of March 16, there were odds of +164 on the Buffaloes to reach the Sweet 16, with odds of -205 on Colorado to lose in the first two rounds. According to ESPN Daily Wager, Colorado has a 74% probability of defeating Georgetown on Friday.
Colorado has been slotted in the East region, a bracket which includes 1-seed Michigan, 2-seed Alabama, and 3-seed Texas. The latter two captured the Big 12 and SEC tournaments, respectively, last weekend. The Buffaloes have odds of +750 at FanDuel to reach the Final Four.
As of Monday, Gonzaga was ranked the No. 1 team to win the tournament based on bet count. The highest handle team was Michigan, and the most popular team to make the Final Four by bet count was Illinois. FanDuel had already taken two bets of $20,000 or more, one each on Baylor ($30,000. +320) and West Virginia ($20,000, +2400).
FanDuel is offering its “Spread the Love” promotion for Michigan State. For this promotion, which is available in Colorado, FanDuel will move the line one point in MSU’s favor for every 2,500 bets placed.
As of Tuesday, FOX Bet reported that Colorado bettors were making Michigan the most bet-on team for the operator, accounting for 20.5% of handle, followed by Baylor (16.9%), Gonzaga (15.9%), and Illinois (13%). FOX Bet bettors in Colorado have a bevy of specials to pick from, including Double Your Money ($10 max bet) on Gonzaga to make the Final Four or Four Times Your Money ($10 max bet) for Baylor and Michigan both to advance to the Elite Eight.
FOX Bet will also run its “Super 6” free-to-play promotion on every day there are tournament games beginning March 19. The promotion guarantees a $1,000 prize on all days except on the day of the national championship, when the prize bumps up to $5,000. Plus, from March 18-April 4 it’s possible to claim a $10 free bet every day. Simply bet $10+ on a basketball game (-200 minimum odds) to claim yours.
Currently live digitally in six states, PointsBet is offering aggressive specials in Colorado for March Madness, including the “Let It Rip” match bonuses of up to $1,999 for customers who bet through the second round of the tournament. The bonuses are in the form of account credits and go up as the size of a wager goes up.
Other specials are single-game parlay insurance and the operator’s “Personal Good Karma Refund,” which allows bettors to select their own bad beat. Customers can receive up to a $50 refund in account credit.
One creative offering from PointsBet allows bettors to wager on the state producing the eventual national champion. With seven teams in the field, Texas has the most schools of any state in the tournament. The Lone Star State also has three Top 3 seeds with 1-seed Baylor, 2-seed Houston, and 3-seed Texas. At PointsBet, Texas is favored to produce the national champion with odds of -135. The state of Washington, home to tournament favorite Gonzaga, is the second choice at +205. Colorado is not among PointsBet’s Top 10 offerings.
The regional sportsbook, which went live in Colorado late last year, is offering three March Madness specials. The “Crystal Ball” special gets any bettor who placed a bet of $50 or more on a team between March 3-April 21, 2021 to win March Madness gets a $25 bonus match, and any registered Superbook Sports bettor (as of March 18, 2021), automatically receives a $200 account bonus. Superbook is also offering those in Colorado up to $500 in a deposit match for new customers.
Every day, Superbook has a special tab for Colorado teams, and it already has odds up for Colorado State and Colorado in the basketball postseason, as well as odds for the Denver Nuggets and other Colorado professional teams.
PlayUp, a Colorado newcomer, is offering a unique promotion for the tournament that gives bettors the option of backing several teams at favorable odds. The promo gives bettors odds of 50/1 on any team to win the tournament. Across the state, at least eight teams have odds below 25/1 to capture the national championship on the futures market. There is one caveat: The maximum wager for the bet is $5.
Through three days of wagering on March Madness, users are responding nicely to the promotion, PlayUp U.S. CEO Dr. Laila Mintas told CO Bets. “Needless to say we are seeing good action on a lot of the top seeds with these odds,” Mintas wrote in an email. PlayUp, which launched in Colorado earlier this month, is also seeing strong action on CU Buffs’ wagers. “Having the Buffaloes in the field has certainly helped in creating buzz and betting interest,” Mintas added. PlayUp plans to offer a wide variety of gameday specials throughout the tournament.
theScore is offering six March Madness specials, all available in Colorado. Among the more unique offerings are the “$10 Tourney Survivor” wager and “Cinderella Protection.” Those who bet $50 or more on any team to win March Madness by March 19 get $10 for every round the team survives. With Cinderella Protection, any wager up to $100 on a 10-16 seed in the first two rounds is “protected” if the team loses by three points or less. In addition, theScore is offering a $200 free bet to first-time bettors, parlay specials, reduced juice, and daily odds boosts.
Jill R. Dorson contributed to this article