|Betting on NASCAR has sprouted up from no where past 20 years|
Though executives in all major sports leagues publicly frown upon gambling, legal or otherwise, there is no denying the fact that Las Vegas action signals a certain level of mainstream social significance. And in NASCAR's case, it signals arrival.
"It's a sign the sport is finally considered a real sport," said Craftsman Truck Series driver and Las Vegas native Brendan Gaughan, whose family owns The Orleans Hotel and Casino Resort.
"They don't bet on Indy Car racing. They don't bet on Formula One. They bet on one form of auto racing -- NASCAR."
Whether the Daytona brass wants to judge its arrival in that context is highly unlikely. But according to some Vegas insiders, it is a worthy barometer.
"Used to be I only got asked advice for the Indianapolis 500, but now the interest [in NASCAR] is increasing," said USA Today sports analyst Danny Sheridan, widely considered the authority on sports odds-making.
"If you don't have people betting on your sport, you won't have high [television] ratings. That's a fact of life. Do you know anybody who'd go to a horse track for the beauty of the animals?"
Micah Roberts, who writes a weekly analytical NASCAR picks column for vegasinsider.com and sets the motorsports betting lines for Station Casinos, said the increased NASCAR awareness among bettors is astounding.
"Every year it just grows and grows," Roberts said. "For a sport to come out of nowhere in an eight-year stretch and multiply year-over-year as far as interest, popularity and money coming in, it's unheard of. It really doesn't happen."
And for the record, Roberts would know. This isn't some wannabe Fantasy Racing junkie, self-labeled as expert. He's the authority, according to Las Vegas Motor Speedway public relations director Jeff Motley.
"Micah is the best odds-maker anywhere in the country when it comes to motorsports, including NASCAR," Motley said.
Pennies on the dollar
Roberts said the Las Vegas race carries more wagering action (known as "handle" in the gaming arena) than any other race, due mainly to its proximity and increased local awareness.
More than the Daytona 500. More than the Brickyard 400. More even than the season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, following which the Nextel Cup champion is crowned.
"Vegas will at least double what we do for Daytona," Roberts said.
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