Swine Flu’s Next Victim: Las Vegas Betting Lines?

Okay, the swine’s flu is getting a little out of hand. No, not for reasons involving actual health problems; H1N1 is still a relatively tame strain of influenza. But since it’s new, infectious, and having fun running through our immune systems before they know how the hell to handle it, it’s going to end up affecting plenty of aspects of society as the winter seeps in.

Hogettes
(A colony of fans already affected by the virus.)

Fortunately, though, there’s no instances where college football players might, say, congregate in the same room for hours at a time, providing a prime opportunity for the virus to spread. And they certainly don’t come into direct, repeated physical contact with each other without any sanitary options nearby nearly every day.

Wait… oh, crap.

Las Vegas has taken notice of this fact - and its manifestation in the ass-awful Duke Blue Devils earlier this summer - and will, according to COVERS.COM, withhold lines as long as possible as a result:

Bettors be warned: Las Vegas oddsmakers will be waiting as long as possible before posting a pointspread on a game involving a team impacted by H1N1. And when a line is set, it will likely have a betting limit. In some cases, a game might be taken off the board.

“If we know there’s a team that may be exposed to a greater number of players with the swine flu, the line will move,” said Peter Korner, owner of the Sports Club oddsmaking firm. “And if we see it move during the course of a day or an afternoon, that’s a red flag. Take the game off the board.”

Obviously, this is bad news for the gambling industry. While you might say “but good news for problem gamblers,” eh, not so fast. Those bets wiill be replaced by other bets, in all likelihood.

But that issue aside, while a swine flu outbreak would definitely be something close to disastrous for a team’s chances at winning any given game, it’s hardly alone in that respect, right? We’ve all heard stories about Team X having a nasty case of food poisoning going through it during the days before a big game, or other flu-like symptoms affecting half the team.

So what makes swine flu so special? As we mentioned before, its symptoms are comparatively mild, and there are few instances of healthy young people who aren’t pregnant (we’re assuming this will continue to be the case with college football players, and if that changes, well, it’ll be a bigger story than anything the swine flu can muster).

And yet at the same time, as one expert in the aforelinked column mentions, the difference, then, is probably the high profile of the virus rather than any effect it actually has. Bettors are constantly digging for scoops and informational advantages when it comes to picking games, and a nugget like “the offensive line are feeling weak and have fevers” is probably going to make a wager on the team taking the over significantly more risky - in the bettor’s eyes. We don’t know how much Ham-AIDS is actually going to affect a team, and it’s entirely possible that bettors can overreact to the reports - assuming a coach is unable to keep the reports in-house.

It seems weird and borderline irrational, but keep in mind that bettors are like deer: skittish, vulnerable, and immensely satisfying to shoot through the heart with a bow and arrow from 75 yards away. Okay, we’re sorry. You should never enjoy doing that to deer.