Saturday, March 01, 2008
Las Vegas-Home of the Wranglers!
To many of us, the city of Las Vegas is a lot of things. But to Kevin Lalande, and to many hockey enthusiasts, it is the home of the Las Vegas Wranglers.
For a few quirky reasons, the Wranglers play in the East Coast Hockey League. They are presently on a road trip to two other East Coast locations-Alaska and Victoria, British Columbia. Hardly east coast, according to my basic geography. But that is reality in the professional hockey world.
Kevin Lalande spent the last four seasons with the Belleville Bulls. He was selected by the Calgary Flames in the draft, relegated to Quad City of the American Hockey League, and is now between the pipes for the Wranglers.
As a Belleville Bull, Kevin developed into one of the premier netminders in the OHL. He began slowly in 2003-2004, posting a .833 save percentage in his rookie season. In the same vein, he struggled at Quad City, with a similar .837 save percentage; however, since his posting to Las Vegas, he has taken his game to a higher level.
He has played 20 games for the Wranglers, posting a dozen wins and four losses in regulation. He also has recorded three shutouts. His goals against average is a stingy 2.08, and his save percentage is .929. In his last outing in Victoria, he helped the Wranglers clinch a playoff berth in the quest for the Kelly Cup.
On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I discovered there are plenty of distractions for Kevin and his teammates lest they should get bored. I ventured into a couple of casinos to learn about sports betting, as it takes place in one of the very few legal places in the United States.
It is big business. At the hotel called New York, New York, there are more than sixty television screens in the sports betting area. Everything from basketball, hockey, boxing and horse racing was displayed on one of the sets. Bets were not restricted to one of the events in progress.
In a recent article in the hotel Vegas magazine, Matt Vilano interviewed the Race and Sports Book Director from the MGM Mirage. Robert Walker sets the betting lines for every wager.
The lines he sets are designed to get equal bets on both sides, giving the bettor an equal choice for either side. Quite often, the casinos take “futures” bets on events that will not take place for some time. Wagering is now in full swing for the NCAA basketball championships, as well as the Stanley Cup.
On a printed odds list, the Red Wings are listed at “+400” indicating that you would be paid $ 4 for every dollar you bet for them to win. The Black Hawks are listed at “60/1”, for a return of sixty bucks per dollar waged. The Leafs? 450/1. The L A Kings are lowest on the totem pole at 750/1-not much chance there.
I spoke with Tim, (who preferred to keep his last name to himself) about the betting process. He has worked sports betting for six years in Vegas, originally at New York, New York, and now at the Luxor. He listed the most popular betting sports in order: football, basketball, hockey, NASCAR, and finally baseball. He also handles bets on thirty race tracks every day.
A high roller might lay down forty to fifty thousand dollars per game, according to Tim. “This year’s Super Bowl was disastrous for the casinos. They did not estimate the odds properly, and the New York Giants victory cost them a bundle. It will take some time to recover from that.”
Tim was more than willing to explain the systems to me. Wagers can be as little as five dollars on a board bet. The largest wager ever taken was on the 2002 Super Bowl. Someone bet $ 4.6 million for the Rams to win. The Patriots won that game 20-17, and the bettor was out of luck.
Tim was more than a little critical of “Proline”, Ontario sports wagering system. “A little too complicated, a little too difficult to put together enough selections to win a decent amount of money.”
Odds for most of the games were posted on the walls beside the TV screens. Occasionally some bettor would let out a whoop if his team won; more often there was a quiet grunt in the back row.
My money stayed in my pocket. But the rows of spectators at all of the casinos indicated that it is a most popular activity.
I will continue to follow Kevin Lalande’s season on the internet. There are several other local players in the league, and it is good fun to track some of them down, particularly as the playoffs arrive.
You can also place your bets through the casinos on line. I will leave that up to you.