It almost looked like the San Francisco 49ers would lose only their second game of the season when they were up against the Arizona Cardinals yesterday, but they managed to stage a last-minute comeback with a late TD to grab the victory out of the clutches of the Cards.
49ers Late TD Great For Bettors
That was good for the team and its playoff hopes, which are all but set in stone at this point, but not so good for some sportsbooks around the country. The 36-26 final score meant that many gambling houses had to pay out more than they would have liked.
Caesars Sportsbook had the 49ers as 13.5 favorites on the spread when wagering opened; however, they closed at ten points. Other sportsbooks around Las Vegas reported a close of -9.5 for the Niners, and they were all watching the final couple minutes of the game, already beginning to count their winnings, as the Cards, although losing, had the spread covered, trailing just 30-26 with mere seconds to play.
The Cards had the ball on their own 22 with just two seconds left, when things suddenly went very wrong. The Cardinals tried one of those multi-lateral plays that the Dolphins beat the Patriots with late last season. The Cardinals even had the touchdown-scoring hero of that play, Kenyan Drake, on their side. But this time, things broke down quickly. The ball got free and the 49ers scooped it and scored as time expired. And just like that, San Francisco had a 10-point victory, 36-26.
And because the clock had run out, the 49ers didn’t bother with the extra point and the score stood – the ten points sportsbooks had hoped they wouldn’t see.
Caesars calls it a “worst-case scenario” in chatter with ESPN. Jeff Davis, the sportsbook’s director of trading, said, “We needed the Cardinals to lose by more than 10 since no parlays lost and Arizona backers at more than 10 didn’t lose. San Francisco by four was no good, but by 10 was worse. We needed [the 49ers] by 11 or more.”
The Cardinals took control of the game from the first kickoff, outscoring their opponent 16-0 in the first half. The 49ers were able to rally in the second half, but were still down 26-23 with only 31 seconds left on the clock. It appeared that a loss was imminent, but appearances can be deceiving. San Francisco 49ers managed to score a late TD to make it 30-26 and then forced Arizona to waste its timeouts with too much time on the clock to mount a proper stand. After the forced fumble with just six seconds left in the game, the 49ers then sealed the victory with another touchdown.
Word got around about how the betting activity had swayed. If the team couldn’t give a victory on the field, Arizona was at least a little happy that it could give some gamblers a little extra spending money. Larry Fitzgerald, a wide receiver for the Cards, said afterwards, “It just didn’t work out [that] way, but I’m pretty sure some people in Vegas were happy.”
Caesars didn’t say how much money it had to pay out, but not all of the sportsbooks were hit as hard. The Westgate Superbook reportedly came out relatively unscathed and DraftKings reported that 60% of the wagers, as well as 61% of the handle, had been on the Cardinals. It added that the majority of the bets had the Cards at +10, so there wasn’t any damage done there.
PointsBet seemed to have survived relatively well, also. Head of Content Matt Chaparales told ESPN, “Our action was split fairly evenly between 49ers -10.5 and -10. Our line never touched 49ers -9.5, so a good chunk of clients survived and cashed their tickets while the rest had to settle for a tough push.” It would seem that, among the major sportsbooks, only Caesars suffered major damage from the 49ers late TD. However, smaller sportsbooks would have paid the price, as well.