Monday, January 15, 2001

Vegas favors Ravens by 2

Oddsmakers see low scoring Super Bowl

AP Sports Writer

        LAS VEGAS — If this city's legal oddsmakers are right — and they usually are — this year's Super Bowl figures to be a plodding affair with points at a premium.

        Baltimore hadn't even put up the finishing touches on a 16-3 win over Oakland when the Ravens were put up as a slight favorite in what is expected to be a low-scoring Super Bowl against the New York Giants.

        Baltimore was a 2-point pick Sunday night at most sports books, but the real story was an over/under total that ranks among the lowest in Super Bowl history.

        Oddsmakers figure both teams will combine for only about 34 points, and just as likely as not won't even score that many. The combined number is a touchdown less than the 41 points the Giants scored against Minnesota, an offensive outburst viewed mostly as an aberration by those who make a living setting point spreads.

        “Baltimore's offense is just pathetic, but New York's is not much better,” said Joe Lupo, sports book manager at the Stardust hotel-casino.

        Bettors flocked to the windows at the Stardust in an initial flurry of betting on the Ravens that boosted the 1-point line Lupo first put up to 2 points with the Ravens still running out the ball in Oakland.

        The Stardust invited betting on the Super Bowl as soon as Jamie Sharper intercepted a pass for Baltimore to end the final Raider threat with just under 4 minutes left in the game.

        “We hang up the line early here and most of the money was on the Ravens,” Lupo said. “We need the Giants now and that's fine with me. I think they're the best team out there.”

        At the Imperial Palace sports book, bettors were also eager to get some early action down on a line that opened with Baltimore a 2-point favorite.

        Book manager Jay Kornegay said he couldn't remember an over/under line ever being so low on a Super Bowl, and that the total would be even lower except that bookies anticipate more action on the over in the Super Bowl.

        “You've got great defenses on both sides and not much offense on either side,” Kornegay said. “That combination makes for a very low scoring game.”

        Last year, oddsmakers hit the game just right, making the St. Louis Rams a 7-point favorite in a game they won 23-16. The over/under for that game was 48, two full touchdowns higher than this year's matchup.

        Sports book operators had hoped for an Oakland-New York Super Bowl, figuring it would generate more betting than Baltimore-New York.

        “I'm trying to get over this Ravens being in the Super Bowl thing,” Kornegay said. “I'm sure Giants fans will be out in force, but I don't think I've ever even seen a Ravens jersey on anyone here.”

        Still, the game is expected to draw more action than last year's game, mainly because the point spread is so close and there is two weeks between the championship games and the Super Bowl this year as opposed to only one last year.

        Legal bettors wagered $71 million on last year's game, with sports books winning $4.2 million of that. Hundreds of millions dollars are bet illegally across the country on the game, from office pools to corner illegal bookies. Offshore sports books which operate Internet gambling sites are also expected to do heavy business.


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