- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It is often said that when it comes to gambling, there has never been a sure thing.

Enter the New England Patriots.

After crushing the Redskins 52-7 on Sunday, the Patriots are not only undefeated, but they easily have covered the point spread set by casino oddsmakers for eight consecutive weeks.

“I’ve never seen a situation like this,” said Richard Gardner, a sports bookmaker for online casino Bodoglife.com. “It’s unprecedented.”

The Patriots’ penchant for winning — and winning big — has made them a favorite among gamblers, who have been willing to place bets on New England no matter the size of the point spread.

New England was a 15-point favorite entering Sunday’s game against the Redskins, an unusually high figure for a team playing on the road. The Patriots won by 45.

In three other games this year, the Patriots have been at least 15-point favorites and covered. The team’s closest game was the 17-point victory over the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 7. In all but two games, the Patriots have beaten the point spread by at least two touchdowns.

It’s bad news for casinos, which have recorded millions of dollars in losses stemming from bets on Patriots games.

“With the Patriots, we have not been able to get an accurate line,” said Bob Scucci, race and sportsbook manager for Boyd Gaming, which operates eight casinos in Las Vegas. “No matter how high we set the line, people are still betting on the Patriots, and the Patriots are still covering.”

Oddsmakers said setting the line on Patriots games is especially hard because the team has continued to score even after the game is in hand. Historically, teams rarely cover a large point spread by more than a touchdown because they run out the clock once they secure a comfortable lead.

“From a bookmaker’s perspective, it’s been depressing,” said Robert Walker, race and sports director at the Mirage casino. “I can’t ever remember it being so costly to us.”

Casinos said betting on the Patriots has increased in the last few weeks, even as point spreads have grown larger. Out of every 10 bets, nine are on the Patriots.

“People usually get nervous with the large numbers and take their money somewhere else,” Gardner said. “Now people are just like ‘[the Patriots] are killing everyone. We’re going to ride this streak until it ends.’ ”

Moreover, casinos are seeing bets coming in earlier in the week, a sign gamblers are spending less time waiting for injury updates and other last-minute information and simply placing their faith in the Patriots’ ability to dominate.

“You usually don’t see people willing to put up their money this early,” he said.

This weekend’s game against the Indianapolis Colts has created something unseen by anyone in Las Vegas: an undefeated reigning Super Bowl champion listed as a 5½-point underdog at home.

“My instinct is to say the Colts are the right team to bet on,” Scucci said. “But again, I’ve been wrong the last couple of weeks.”

Another dominating performance by the Patriots this weekend likely would push future point spreads above 20 points, which is rarified air in the NFL.

“It used to be you’d never have a 20-point favorite in the NFL, but there’s a chance we’re going to reach that mark with the Patriots against some teams,” Scucci said.

Fans not content to just play the point spreads also have cleaned up betting on the over/under, which is betting on whether the total points in the game will be higher or lower than a given number.

In seven of eight games, the Patriots and their opponents have exceeded the “over,” thanks in large part to the team’s penchant for scoring even after a game is in hand.

“New England is not letting up,” Gardner said. “You can bet on the over, and New England will almost exceed it single-handedly.”

The good news for casino operators is that they’re guaranteed not to lose money on the Patriots in Week 10. That’s New England’s bye week.

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