Kentucky’s win pays off for the public in Las Vegas sports books

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Christopher DeVargas

A view of the Caesars Palace sports book, March 13, 2012.

Mon, Apr 2, 2012 (10:13 p.m.)

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From left, Kentucky guard Doron Lamb, forward Terrence Jones (3) and guard Marquis Teague celebrate after the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 2, 2012, in New Orleans. Kentucky won 67-59.

Television sets across America were already turned off by the time the 2012 NCAA championship game got interesting in Las Vegas.

A game outsiders viewed as anticlimactic was nothing short of excruciating for local bettors and oddsmakers. Kentucky lived up to its status as the pre-tournament favorite by taking down Kansas 67-59 in New Orleans, narrowly covering the 6.5-point spread.

The Wildcats thoroughly outplayed the opposition and led by somewhere in between 13 and 16 points for most of the second half before a late Jayhawks surge made public bettors tremble in their seats.

Kansas went on a 13-3 run to cut the score to 63-57 with 1:11 remaining. Unfortunately for sports books, the Jayhawks couldn’t hold on.

A final 3-point shot from Kansas’ Elijah Johnson missed the mark to ensure Kentucky became the 10th favorite in the last 13 years to cover in college basketball’s national championship game.

Sports book directors would have much preferred Johnson’s shot to fall. More gamblers sided with Kentucky, meaning books likely took a small loss on the national championship game.

They won’t complain too loudly, though. The national championship game accounts for a miniscule handle when compared with the rest of the tournament, especially the first weekend when 48 games are played over four days.

Casinos profited on the tournament overall, especially when taking into account the year-long action on future wagers to win the championship. Sports books listed Kentucky as the second-most likely team to win the title at the beginning of the season, behind only North Carolina.

The Wildcats' odds to win it all never got higher than 6-to-1 and stayed around 2-to-1 for most of the year, meaning sports books had no hefty payouts to surrender.

The national championship game also went under the posted over/under of 137 points. It was the third straight year the score failed to eclipse Vegas’ total.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or case.keefer@lasvegassun.com. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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