For example, if the sides had the home team favored by eight and the home team won by eight or if the closing sides line had the visiting team favored by three and it won by three, this is a push. If the closing totals line was and the combined final score of the home team and visiting team was points, this is also a push.
If the second-half totals line was 60 and the combined second-half scoring by the home and visiting team was 60, this is a push. Looking at the aggregated annual data, the end-of-game sides line in the NFL resulted in the highest percentage of pushes 2.
Overall, in the presence of integrity fees on the entire handle, the total number of bets that resulted in pushes might be sufficient for sports books to implement more half-point lines to avoid the potential tax liability of the pushes, especially for games that are expected to generate large handles.
While the data on handle amounts are not available, we can investigate how many sides and totals lines are already offered with half-points without integrity fees. The greatest percentage of half-point lines is the second-half sides line in the NFL Even without integrity fees, five of the sixteen sides and total lines have majority half-point lines. If sports books can reasonably predict those games most likely to end in a push, they could target those games to have half-point lines and reduce their exposure to the increased tax liability while only increasing the prevalence of half-point lines by just a few percentage points.
What is the relationship between half-point betting lines and the number of pushes over time? On the one hand, if sports books are more concerned about the administrative costs of pushes relative to the good-will pushes can generate, we expect the intertemporal correlation between pushes and half-point lines is positive. On the other hand, if good will is more important, then we would expect a negative correlation between pushes and half-point lines over time.
In the two collegiate sports, the correlation is positive, and there is negative, albeit low, correlation in the two professional sports. This difference, even in the absence of integrity fees, might indicate a segmented betting market where those who bet on college sports are less price elastic to half-point lines compared to those who bet on professional sports. These differences would feed back into the conditions described in the previous section by which sports books are more inclined to offer half-point lines.
An alternative explanation could be the difference between casual bettors and financially motivated bettors as described by Feddersen et al. In these four sports, those bettors who are less price elastic may be less concerned about the availability of a push when the line is relatively large.
In each sport year we calculated the mean and standard deviation of the line and totals. We then categorized each line and total as being relatively high if it was more than 1. We then estimated probit models that relate an indicator variable for the line being a half line against the line being relatively high.
In both college sports, a relatively high sides or total corresponds with a lower probability of a half line, suggesting that when one team is a heavy favorite or there is an expectation of a large number of points scored that bettors might be more casual and appreciate a possible push, especially in college football. In the two professional sports, there is no statistically significant relationship between having a relatively high line and having a half-point line.
This might suggest that bettors in these sports are more financially motivated and do not require a possible push when the lines are relatively high. The distinction is not trivial for any party involved in the betting markets. A handle on a single game could run in the millions of dollars, whereas the hold to the sports book might be less than five percent of the handle.
Obviously, sports leagues would prefer an integrity fee on the greater amount and sports books on the lower amount. This might be sufficient to eliminate any economic profit to the sports book which might cause some to go out of business. If this were to happen, illicit gambling markets would become more viable reintroducing extra-legal activity, the inability of government and leagues to collect taxes and integrity fees, eliminating redress in the formal legal system for bettors and sports books, and introducing the potential for problematic gambling to persist longer than it would otherwise.
Moreover, an integrity fee on the handle opens sports books to potential tax liability when a push occurs, after which all bets are returned the book has no net revenue from the event but must pay the integrity fee on the total bet. One defense to this possibility is to lobby the legislature to exempt pushes from taxation as was done in West Virginia in Another possible defense is for sports books to introduce half-point sides and totals lines which eliminate the possibility of a push.
Raising the line against the favorite would lower the handle bet on the favorite and raise the handle bet on the underdog, ceteris paribus, while lowering the line against the underdog would have the opposite effect. Whether a sports book finds it profitable to offer a half-point sides or totals line depends on how sensitive the changes in the handle are and how likely a push is to occur. We derive the conditions under which a sports book will find itself with a lower potential tax liability and higher expected profit in the presence of an integrity fee on the handle by offering a half-point line.
In the absence of detailed data on the actual amount bet before and after lines change, we describe the pattern of pushes, half-point lines, and their correlation for four different lines in college basketball, college football, professional basketball, and professional football. Sports books offer end-of-game sides lines, end-of-game totals lines, second-half sides lines, and second-half totals lines for the vast majority of the games in these four sports.
Footnote 6 We look at the difference between the closing lines and the end-of-game and second-half outcomes and categorize bets as being pickems, i. We also document how many of the four lines are half-point lines in which pushes are not possible. Over a five-year period from to , there was a total of pickem closing sides lines in college basketball 1. Regardless of whether sports books balance the betting on each side or take an explicit position on which team will win, the low number of organically predicted pushes reflected in sides lines suggests that pushes are not often expected.
Yet, actual pushes occur much more often than predicted pushes. For example, in the National Football League 3. This suggests that sports books face considerable possible tax liability from an integrity fee implemented on the handle rather than the hold.
If the empirical conditions hold such that the sports book finds it more profitable to introduce a half-point line, what is the expected sensitivity of the handle? In the absence of detailed data on how handles change before and after line changes or across games with different lines, we document the number and percentage of half-point lines that were offered in the absence of integrity fees. In most of the four lines across the four sports, there is at least a plurality, and in five cases, a majority of lines are already half-point lines.
We interpret this pattern as suggesting that if all the pushes were accurately predictable and the lines became half-point lines, there would not be a dramatic response to the half-point line, per se. That is, there are already enough half-point lines offered that the betting market would not react in shock to the existence of the half-point line.
The extent that the handle changes in response to the half-point line is an empirical question that would be solved by the sports book because it has the private information on handles across lines and games. States tend to tax the hold rather than the handle indicating that state legislatures understand better the distinction or more readily respond to lobbying by the gambling industry. As of May , no state has explicitly included an integrity fee in their legalization legislation, yet West Virginia did exempt pushes from its taxes and any future integrity fees.
If other states implement integrity fees in the future, the implications of taxing the handle rather than the hold should be remembered. At times, a sports book will require a different amount for a unit bet. This model follows closely that in Levitt The NCAA basketball season was ended after the regular season was completed but before most conference tournaments and the three national post-season tournaments had been held and the NBA season was suspended on March 11, , and had not been resumed by the time of this writing.
Here, we assume that the sports book aims to have equal amounts bet on each team so that their vigorish commission is risk free. This assumption is not without controversy [see Levitt ] but is common without strong evidence to the contrary. It is likely the case that for certain games the handle is too small or the sides so lopsided in quality that it is not possible to have the amount bet on both sides exactly equal. This potential for systematic bias in lines is not possible to test without data on the handles for both sides of many bets.
However, a sports book balances or does not balance their bets, a pickem reflects there is no favorite in the bet. Of these pickems, 13, 28, 9, and 13 resulted in a push, respectively. In college basketball there are many games in which one or more lines are not offered. This is most common when the game is between two very lopsided teams or when there is considerable uncertainty surrounding the game, e.
In the case of college football, lines are generally not offered on inter-divisional games, e. Associated Press. Accessed July Berkowitz, Jason, I. Craig Depken, and John Gandar. Journal of Sports Economics 19 7 : — International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship 13 2 : — Cisyk, Jeffrey, and Pascal Courty.
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