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Game On / Betting on March Madness just got easier

Finally legal


When I was in college, I was fortunate enough to study abroad. My travels took me to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland where, as an avid sports fan, I tried to incorporate myself into the sports scene.


I watched cricket, but that sport is literally incomprehensible to anyone who didn’t grow up driving on the wrong side of the road. I got into rugby, once taking a memorably long bus trip to see the Scottish National side take on Italy. The game was sold out when I got there, so I ended up watching it in a pub down the street, which also became a vivid memory.


My most successful attempts to participate in United Kingdom sports culture came via soccer. I went to nearly every home game for Hibernian, one of two local club teams in Edinburgh. I learned the chants and songs—I even had a favorite player. But the thing I liked most about going to soccer games was the ability to place bets on the game right in the stadium.


There was a booth next to the concession stands that sold Bovril and tea and meat pies; it was run by Ladbrokes, a big bookmaker. I would always bring extra pounds to the game in order to bet on who would score first, or which player would be named man of the match. I rarely won, because I didn’t know much about the players or the sport. But, having an extra thing to cheer for made the games more fun, more intense, and more exciting. Too bad I couldn’t try it with the American sports I knew well.


Flash forward eleven years and, thanks to a series of legal changes that started in the US Supreme Court, sports betting comes to my hometown in the form of the new sportsbook at Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino. I couldn’t be happier. I don’t have the cash to be making bets all the time; as someone with about six part-time gigs, I don’t have the money to lose. But from time to time, when a big event comes along, I’m in.


This month, the mother of all betting holidays—the NCAA Basketball Tournament—is upon us. If you ever wanted to try placing a bet, now would be the perfect time.


The process can be a little intimidating at Buffalo Creek. There are about a dozen machines with video screens that will take you through the process. But there is only one window manned with an employee; if you don’t know what you are looking at going in, there isn’t much guidance.


The simplest bet is on what’s called the moneyline. You pick the winner and you get paid if they win. Favorites are listed with minus numbers like -100, -150, or -200. If you bet $10 on a -200 favorite and win, you get $15 back. Underdogs are exactly the opposite, and a +200 underdog that hits pays $30 on a $10 bet.


Moneyline bets are usually for games with low scores like baseball, hockey, and soccer because when a game has more scoring, people generally bet the “spread” instead. Spread bets work best for football and basketball. In this type of betting, a spread is given for the game. Maybe the favorite in a tight basketball game will be +5 points. That means if you bet the favorite, they have to win by more than five points for your bet to pay off. If you bet the underdogs, they could win, or lose by less than five points and your bet would still pay off. In this type of betting, the payment is usually one-to-one, so if you bet $10 and win, you will get $20 when you turn in the ticket.


The third type of betting that works for the tournament is totals. In this type of betting, the casino sets a line for a certain element of the game and you bet on over or under. A common example is total points scored. Often, the number is a half number like 95.5 so that there are no ties (called pushes).


There is so much more that can be bet on now, and a whole world to discover if you want to put your money where your mouth is when it comes to watching sports.



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