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.

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8 Responses

  1. soccer is really hard to bet. it is low scoring with ties. I don’t see it taking off vegas. brits will bet anything.

  2. I’ve long wondered if MLS needs gambling to raise its profile, but as you state, it’s a bit of a sticky wicket. Gamblers will be on anything, so if it was there I’m sure it would get some action; but until there’s demand, the handicappers have no reason to add it to their portfolio, the books have no reason to offer line, etc.

  3. The problem for the League is that they don’t want to be seen promoting gambling…yet it could help them raise their profile. I’m not sure how a League can encourage gambling without appearing to do so.

  4. An interesting comparison might be the CFL. Vegas books offering wagering on it (possibly because it is football and Americans will bet anything football) and you can gamble on it in Canada. If the league wants to promote gambling in a tacit manner, fantasy pools are the way to go. Nothing gets people caring about a meaningless game as much as having a fantasy player in it.

  5. Fantasy soccer is gaining popularity, but the sport is not as stats based as other sports. It can make fantasy soccer pretty limiting.

  6. The commenter who mentioned low scores and ties as a reason to back off of soccer betting doesn’t really “get it”. I think that if gambling on American soccer was legal, people would begin to explore the opportunities for some interesting and potentially profitable wagers.

    It’s not just that the Brits will bet on anything… It’s that they’re familiar enough with football wagers that they can see the fun and profit potential.

  7. […] Soccer Business Bits: New MLS Expansion? Overnight English language broadcast numbers are out for the USA/Brazil match, and the numbers are instructive.  Of the top 10 markets, only three are MLS cities, and two of the top five (Miami and West Palm Beach) were home to one of the League’s failed franchises.  Other  top markets like Hartford/New Haven and Richmond scored very well, despite only a passing association with exisiting franchises.  Las Vegas was a solid #2, perhaps suggesting heavy betting action on the game. […]

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