Soccer in Vegas: Gambling on Major League Soccer

diceFor the last few years, LasVegas has been a popular candidate for MLS expansion.  Right now, that seems unlikely, but Vegas remains the go-to destination for legal sports gambling in the United States: unless you want to bet on MLS.  During a recent trip to Sin City, we went “sports book hopping” looking for betting lines on MLS matches  They were nowhere to be found.

You can bet the PGA, NASCAR and the first five innings of any baseball game, but MLS is not an option.  However, in every sports book I we saw, you could bet the EPL (West Ham seemed to be the bet of the weekend).  When we spoke to Casino workers they indicated that they get very few inquiries for MLS betting.  Given the lack of interest, Vegas has little motivation to invest the time and energy into setting lines for MLS games.

MLS betting is available online.  Some of the more popular services offer lines for all games.  However, these sites are essentially illegal for US Residents and therefore, there is little opportunity for State-side MLS fans to bet these games.  I have no knowledge about the possibility of betting MLS with local bookies, but there little chance that such bets are offered.

The lack of betting seems like a small thing, but gambling presents an important opportunity to bring eyeballs to the League.  The NFL is incredibly popular, in large part because of the easy betting it provides.  In England, EPL betting is an enormous enterprise and adds excitement for millions.  MLS may not want to admit it, but getting itself into Vegas sports books would be an important step for the League.  Of course, it is bit of a chicken and egg issue; if nobody wants to bet the games, Vegas has little motivation to create lines.  Nevertheless, having gamblers interested in the League could allow the League to grow its TV audience.