Inside Gaming: Sportsbooks, Bettors Ready for Mayweather-McGregor Bout
You might have heard — there's a big fight happening Saturday night in Las Vegas. Apparently, a few people are putting some money on it.
Culminating more than two months' worth of hype (and a couple of years' worth of speculation), the super welterweight boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor finally happens the night of August 26 in T-Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas Strip.
Michigan native Mayweather is the undefeated (49-0) five-division world champion, while the Irishman McGregor comes to the match from the world of mixed-martial arts where he is the reigning UFC Lightweight Champion and former UFC Featherweight Champion with a record of 21-3. McGregor is coming out of retirement for the fight, his first professional boxing match, and though wildly popular is a heavy underdog to Mayweather.
The bout is titled "The Money Fight," an appropriate name for at least a couple of reasons. One is the fact that both fighters stand to earn considerable sums from the match, details of which are discussed below. The other reason, of course, is the amount of wagering on the bout, which has exceeded early expectations by a wide margin as fans of both boxing and UFC have shown their betting interest has been piqued by the fighters' popularity and the novelty of the bout.
According to OddsShark's tracking of the odds, Mayweather began as a massive -2250 favorite (i.e., a $2,250 bet would win $100, or $100 bet would win a mere $4.44) and McGregor a big +950 underdog (a $100 bet would win $950).
Seeing that difference, the public began placing an overwhelming majority of bets on McGregor — 15 times as many (or more in some places) than on Mayweather. That imbalance has brought Mayweather down to a -450 or -400 favorite and made McGregor around a +300 to +350 underdog depending on the sportsbook.
Various prop bets have also encouraged betting on McGregor by non-sharps. For example, as Westgate Race & Sports SuperBook manager John Murray explained on this week's episode of ESPN's podcast Behind the Bets, when McGregor boasted in July that he'd defeat Mayweather within the first four rounds, the Westgate put up a prop the next morning on whether or not that would come to pass.
The sportsbook set lines of +1000 for "Yes" (McGregor would win in four rounds) and -10000 for "No" (he would not). Speaking on Wednesday, Murray said there had been 140 bets on "Yes" and just one on "No."
Such lopsidedness in the betting has uniquely increased the sportsbooks' exposure, as indicated in the latest Associated Press report on the situation, "Bookies will lose millions if McGregor KO's Mayweather."
The AP summarizes the comments of William Hill oddsmaker Nick Bogdanovich noting how his chain of sportsbooks "will suffer million dollar losses — their worst ever — should McGregor win the fight in any fashion." And, "if [McGregor] wins early, as he has promised, the losses would be even worse."
Jimmy Vaccaro, oddsmaker at the South Point, said his sportsbook "stood to lose about $400,000 on a McGregor win." However at his sportsbook they also took a $880,000 bet on Mayweather that would pay $160,000 if he wins. And this morning David Purdum of ESPN reported a couple more $1 million bets on Mayweather had been placed.
It should be added, of course, that the casinos aren't terribly worried one way or the other how the fight turns out. They'll benefit from those placing bets on the fight making additional bets on preseason football and other sports, as well as upping the traffic elsewhere in the casinos.
Many who aren't even fans of boxing or MMA are betting on the match. As Boddanovich explains, "This isn't professional money, just the regular Joe.... The butcher and the barber are putting their $100 on McGregor, and it's added up."
Others without experience betting on boxing are wondering whether or not betting on Mayweather — thought to be a mortal lock to win by knowledgable analysts — might be worthwhile, a point of view expressed yesterday in a tweet by poker pro Max Silver:
At of the time of writing the fight has yet to sell out the 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena, although promoters have downplayed the significance of ticket sales as the fight appears destined to be a commercial success regardless of how many watch in person.
"The Money Fight" (including a six-fight undercard) will be broadcast by Showtime starting at 9 p.m. ET Saturday night, available via pay-per-view on most cable and satellite providers for $89.99 USD (standard definition) or $99.99 (high definition). It can also be purchased and watched online via ShowtimePPV.com, through the Showtime PPV app, over UFC.TV, and in other ways.
Mayweather's next-to-last fight in which he defeated Manny Pacquiao in May 2015 set pay-per-view records, with more than 4.5 million purchases totaling an estimated $400 million. According to the Daily Telegraph, "if PPV revenue stays in line with the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout, the fight purse is like to be worth some $300 million, with total revenues at $700 million."
Terms of the split aren't public, though most reports suggest a 70-30 (or 75-25) split in Mayweather's favor. "That would mean Mayweather would take home $210 or $225 million from the purse alone," reports Forbes, "while McGregor will have to 'settle' for $80 or $75 million."
While both fighters will profit immensely from the fight no matter the outcome, there is nonetheless plenty at stake for both beyond the specialized (and largely ornamental) "Money Belt" that will go to the victor. Mayweather in particular risks an umblemished career and legacy as one of boxing's all-time greats should he somehow fail to defeat McGregor.
As noted, though, all experts are uniformly predicting that should not occur, with many commentators and boxing analysts ridiculing the fight as a non-serious spectacle given the wide gap in skill sets between boxing and MMA.
Even so, as Vaccaro points out, "it's uncharted waters and that's what makes it so interesting."
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