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Vegas: No clear favorite in NCAA tournament; Billy Walters’ dismissal request gets denied

Twice weekly, we’ll comb through as many articles, tweets and podcasts as we can find related to the world of sports betting and daily fantasy sports, and publish the good stuff here. 

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Las Vegas sportsbooks don’t have a consensus on which team is the favorite to win this year’s NCAA tournament.

North Carolina is the favorite at some. Walk a few blocks down the Las Vegas Strip, and you’ll find the UCLA Bruins atop the championship odds. Another shop has Gonzaga as the favorite; another has Kansas, and still another has Kentucky. It’s setting up to be madness.

There’s also been big money on Duke around town. At the Westgate SuperBook, more money has been bet on the Blue Devils to win the national championship than any other team, more than double the amount that’s been bet on the next closest team, Kentucky. Duke also has attracted the most money at William Hill, highlighted by a $12,000 bet on the Blue Devils at 8-1 that was placed on Feb 23. The bet would net $96,000.

William Hill also took an $8,000 bet on Kentucky at 6-1 odds on Jan. 19. The Wildcats, winners of seven in a row, are the national championship favorites at 4-1 at the Wynn race and sportsbook.

At Caesars Palace, Kansas is the favorite, the Rock Chalk at 5-1, if you will. The top-ranked Jayhawks have attracted the most bets and the most money at Caesars.

MGM and William Hill’s books each have UCLA as the team to beat. More bets have been placed on the Bruins to win the title than any other team at William Hill, where the Bruins’ odds have shortened from 50-1 to 6-1 over the course of the season.

Don’t forget about Gonzaga, either. The Zags began the week as the favorites at 11-2 at the South Point Casino. For good measure, the Stratosphere has Gonzaga and Kentucky listed as co-favorites.

Billy Walters’ request to dismiss a case against him has been denied by a federal judge.

In January, attorneys for Walters requested that the case be dismissed due to government misconduct after it was revealed that an FBI special agent had leaked sensitive information regarding the case to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. FBI agent David Chaves is currently under investigation for the leaks.

U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel acknowledged the leaks but ruled that Walters’ request to dismiss did not show “cognizable prejudice.” Castel also denied Walters’ request for an evidentiary hearing on the leaks.

The National Council of Problem Gambling will recommend lawmakers and lobbying groups pushing for legalized sports betting will recognize the potential impact of problem gambling and gambling addiction.

The NCPG is neutral on whether sports betting should be legalized, but believes expansion will likely increase participation and gambling problems, unless steps are taken to minimize the harm.

Among several ideas, the NCPG recommends that legislators and regulators ensure that any expansion of sports gambling includes dedicated funds to prevent and treat gambling addiction. It recommends that sports leagues and teams establish addiction prevention and education programs for youth athletes, beginning prior to high school and continuing through college and professional sports.

New York has generated more than $2.8 million in tax revenue from daily fantasy sports in the five months since being legalized and regulated.

All tax funds are deposited into the New York Lottery fund for use as education aid.

In total, the data show New York operators — including industry titans DraftKings and FanDuel — took in nearly $180.4 million in entry fees from New York players, a nearly 10 percent chunk of more than $1.8 billion from all players.

An article published by the National Post looks at the possibility of legalized sports betting in the United States with the professional leagues and the Trump administration being on board.

Jeff Ma, an executive at Twitter who was part of the infamous team of MIT students that figured out how to beat casinos at blackjack, said he expects the business case for legal gambling to eventually win the day. Imagine how much more fan interest there would be in a random Thursday night game between Jacksonville and Cleveland if gambling were widely available. “I just think there’s so much money at stake,” Ma says, “I don’t know how it happens, but I think these (leagues) will get together … and figure it out.”

So, it could happen. It could happen soon. Or, soonish. Then the question becomes: are the leagues anywhere near ready for it?

Short answer: nope. Consider that the major sports leagues are an entertainment product that seek to provide information to their fans for marketing purposes. Games are broadcast and information like sports and stats are disseminated through various channels: the news media, the internet, by the teams themselves. There’s a desire for that information to be distributed accurately and in a timely manner, but ultimately it’s all just for fun.