Number Of Online Sports Betting Sites In PA Grows, But Odds And Lines Look Awfully Familiar

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Excitement built recently about growth in Pennsylvania’s online sports betting options, with DraftKings entering the market last week and Unibet ready to launch this week.

There’s likely to be disappointment at the same time, particularly among the most serious and savvy sports bettors.

The reason: The newcomers among the state’s online sportsbooks won’t expand the range of odds available in the way an ambitious line-shopper would have hoped.

Both DraftKings and Unibet utilize Kambi as the partner responsible for originating the odds that end up on their websites and phone apps. Kambi has been doing the same for months for the mobile sites set up by the two sister Rivers Casino properties in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia — BetRivers and Play SugarHouse, respectively — as well as the online sportsbook operated by Parx Casino.

NFL spreads show little solo tweaking is taking place

While all of those Kambi-affiliated sites have the ability to tweak odds on their own, there’s a big question hanging over how often they will do it. When they don’t tinker with what Kambi provides, it means the range of options for bettors comparing lines is essentially reduced to three — any of those five sites plus two others run separately by FanDuel and FOX Bet — instead of the potential seven based on the number of in-Pennsylvania online sportsbooks.

When we examined the pre-game odds around noontime Sunday for the 12 NFL contests slated for the weekend, there was virtually no difference among the point spreads being offered by DraftKings, Parx, BetRivers, and Play SugarHouse.

Unibet’s Pennsylvania site tied to Mohegan Sun Pocono was not yet operating Sunday, as its soft-launch test period under state monitoring is taking place this Tuesday-Thursday. We checked that operator’s New Jersey site, however, and again, its pre-game point spreads were identical to those of the Pennsylvania operators using Kambi.

There was variance among point totals across the Kambi-connected sites in just four of the 12 games.

Meanwhile, there were seven games for which FanDuel was posting both different point spreads and point totals from the Kambi sites, and FOX Bet was showing different point spreads in five games and different point totals in four.

A half-point difference can mean a lot

The differences among point spreads and over/under totals were only a half-point in either direction, but serious sports bettors know how significant that can be, especially for certain key numbers that come into play in football.

For example, in the Cowboys-Vikings Sunday night contest, all of the Kambi-tied sites made the Cowboys a 3-point favorite early in the day. FanDuel and FOX Bet both had them a 3.5-point favorite. In the NFL, any half-point move away from a game’s being decided by a field goal is huge, and any Vikings bettor would have seen a huge advantage in utilizing the FanDuel or FOX Bet sites.

As it turned out, the distinction was moot when the Vikings upset the Cowboys, 28-24. In fact, with the large number of weekend upsets — seven of 12 underdogs won — there wasn’t a single contest in which the difference between point spreads on any of the sites came into play. Nor did any of the point total variances matter.

None of that is the point. Those who are something more than casual, small-time bettors and are looking for every angle possible to overcome the house vig will want to get the best number possible for themselves every time. There will be other weekends when half-point variances will result in one bettor winning and another pushing, or one pushing and one losing, even though they bet the same side, based on which line they utilized.

On moneylines, smart shoppers can take advantage

Sunday’s inspection of the sites did reveal one wider difference among them: their moneyline numbers.

Unlike with point spreads and point totals, DraftKings went its own way with moneylines, as FanDuel and FOX Bet do. And while the Parx and Unibet numbers were always identical to one another, in a few cases they were different from the numbers used at BetRivers and Play SugarHouse.

All of those moneyline variances on a weekend full of upsets meant a favorable difference in payouts for anyone betting on underdogs to win if they took the time to search for the best price.

Someone risking $100 on the Steelers as a moneyline underdog against the Rams would have netted $180 from DraftKings, at least $5 more than from any other site.

When the Seahawks, a 6.5-point underdog, beat the 49ers Monday night, FanDuel rewarded anyone who bet $100 on them to win with $230. That was at least $20 more than any other site would have offered to them for a bet placed at noon Sunday.

And when the Dolphins upset the Colts as 11-point underdogs, any soothsayer who backed them to win with a $100 wager on FOX Bet suddenly became $475 richer, while the other sites would have given them between $425 and $450.

The one consistent theme is the best moneyline numbers were being posted by DraftKings, FanDuel, and FOX Bet instead of the other sites that were sticking with what Kambi originated for them.

The bottom line is that for recreational bettors content to place just $20 on their favorite teams regardless of odds differences, they might be content just to use whatever app they start with and find most comfortable rather than invest time trying to earn an extra dollar or two. For more serious bettors putting higher amounts into action, however, there will be times when it pays to shop. The shopping trip just may not be as beneficial as they would have hoped from having the new outlets available.

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Gary Rotstein

Gary is a longtime journalist, having spent three decades covering gambling, state government, and other issues for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in addition to stints as managing editor of the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette and as a reporter for United Press International and the Middletown (Conn.) Press.

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