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World Cup betting down in Las Vegas but higher than expected

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The World Cup may be the globe’s biggest sporting event, yet in the United States in the fall, it competes with a full sports betting calendar.

Las Vegas sportsbook directors weren’t overly optimistic the betting would be higher than the 2018 World Cup, which was played in the more usual summer months in Russia. And, they were correct about the Qatar event.

Even in the U.S. in November and December, however, the World Cup still makes a notable impact, and it was larger than expected in Las Vegas, the hub of domestic sports betting.

Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sports operations at Westgate Las Vegas, compared World Cup matches during a more typical time of the year being bet on the same level as NFL games. This year’s are more comparable to college basketball.

“We knew going into this World Cup and it taking place during the fall and sharing that main stage with football, basketball and hockey was going to take some of that limelight away from the World Cup,” Kornegay said. “Normally, it has the main stage all to itself in the summer. This year, it’s different and it’s definitely showing.”

Adam Pullen, Caesars Sportsbook assistant director of trading, said it’s difficult to know exactly what the difference is between 2018 and 2022 largely because many more states have legalized sports betting. Just on sheer numbers, the betting handle nationally could be up, but how that translates by percentage per market is unknown.

“It’s comparing apples to oranges, but at least we’ll see how it does compare and how drastic a difference it is,” Pullen said. “I’ve been pleased. I think soccer over the years keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

Kornegay and Pullen said they expected the betting to increase as the knockout stage reaches its conclusion, even though the U.S. was eliminated in the round of 16 and Mexico, another betting favorite, didn’t get out of the group stage.

“I don’t know if it will reach the height of past years, but we do anticipate the pickup in the next couple weeks,” Kornegay said.

As for why the World Cup has overperformed expectations, Kornegay said the heavy media coverage has played a major role in getting American bettors excited.

The U.S. team playing well enough to advance out of the group stage, Kornegay and Pullen said, was another factor.

“It brings the casual fan in, the patriotic fan,” Pullen said. “If they know the U.S. is playing, then they’re more likely to place a bet on another match. It’s always good for the U.S. to be involved, but you have people who are dedicated followers of the sport and they’re going to bet not only the World Cup, but after the World Cup is over they’ll be back betting the Premier League, the German and Italian leagues.”

Kornegay and Pullen said they haven’t seen any kind of unusual bets that would garner headlines, but it’s not like all bettors are limiting their wagers to $100, either.

One bettor, Pullen said, put six figures on Iran to cover the half goal it was getting against the U.S. The U.S. won that group-stage match 1-0.

“The business has changed so much,” Pullen said. “Years ago, a six-figure bet jumps off the page. Now, they’re just routine. We’ve taken a lot of six-figure bets on some of these matches, and it will only increase as we go along.”

The group stage was littered with notable upsets, which usually is good news for bookmakers because the betting public often puts its money on favorites. Professionals tend to seek bargains with underdogs.

But the bookmakers also take a big-picture look at the tournament and not so much the individual matches.

“You had some teams that were upset early, and that’s usually not good for the handle as some of the popular teams,” Kornegay said. “But those teams still advanced. Like Argentina, one of the more popular teams, despite their first-round loss in group play, they advanced and look very good at this point.”

Six of the eight quarterfinal teams have been decided. Spain plays Morocco and Portugal meets Switzerland on Tuesday to fill the other two slots. The final is Dec. 18.

Brazil is a +200 favorite to win the tournament, according to FanDuel, with France next at +490 and Argentina at +550.

“No one’s a bigger fan of the underdog than me, but when it comes down to it, Brazil’s going to drive betting handle not South Korea, or Spain’s going to drive handle, not necessarily Morocco,” Pullen said. “As the big teams progress and you get those mouth-watering quarterfinals, semifinals and the final matchup, that’s going to drive handle more so than the upstart teams.”

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Source: https://apnews.com/article/soccer-sports-las-vegas-united-states-7b092fbecbba2ee636023e34fdf79dad

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49ers head into offseason with more questions at quarterback

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers head into another offseason with major questions at quarterback after a season filled with injuries to the most important position ended without any of them physically able to throw the the ball downfield.

Trey Lance, who began the season as starter, is getting close to being fully cleared following two operations on his broken right ankle.

Brock Purdy, who went from third-string rookie to the starter that helped lead the Niners into the NFC title game before getting hurt himself, is figuring out how to treat his injured throwing elbow.

Jimmy Garoppolo, the starter in between those two before breaking his foot, is set to become an unrestricted free agent in six weeks.

And rumors are sure to swirl about whether the best answer for coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch will be adding a veteran like Tom Brady to help a franchise that has gone to the NFC title game or further in three of the last four seasons get over the hump and win its first Super Bowl in nearly three decades.

The first big question at the position will be about Purdy’s health after he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on the first drive of a 31-7 loss in the NFC title game to Philadelphia on Sunday.

Purdy was forced back into the game in the second half when Josh Johnson left with a concussion but was unable to throw the ball more than a few yards because of the injury.

“The minute I started throwing literally like I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t throw,” he said. “So obviously the adrenaline and stuff I think helps in terms of allowing me to go back in the game and hand the ball off — even that was pretty painful. But just overall it sucked that I wasn’t able to throw.”

An MRI revealed the tear and Purdy said he will undergo more tests and speak to more doctors to figure out whether recovery, repair or full reconstruction is the best option.

The injury is much more common in baseball pitchers, who often undergo reconstructive “Tommy John surgery” that sidelines them up to a year. But Purdy is hoping to avoid that; a simpler repair would keep him out for six months but allow him to return to practice around the start of training camp in July.

“The way a quarterback throws compared to a pitcher, two different things. It’s similar but more violent as a baseball player,” Purdy said. “So they’re saying the recovery process could be a little bit faster as a quarterback. I’ve looked at guys who have gone through this kind of thing. I’m just trying to find what’s right. Everyone’s situation is different and I’m trying to find out which one is right for myself.”

Purdy showed a lot in his first season in the NFL, going from the last pick of the draft to starter in the conference title game. He won all seven of his starts before the loss on Sunday and threw for 1,374 yards with 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions in the regular season.

That performance could make him the favorite to begin next season as starter if he’s healthy.

“For me to claim or say anything in terms of what’s going to happen moving forward, that’s out of my control,” he said. “I’m going to do what I can to get back healthy and be ready to compete come fall.”

Lance was supposed to be in that role after San Francisco traded three first-round picks to draft him third overall in 2021. But he started only two games as a rookie when Garoppolo got hurt and then went down with a season-ending injury early in Week 2 this season.

Lance needed a second operation in late December but said he expects to be fully cleared in a few weeks and to be 100% for the start of the offseason program.

But after he started only five games combined in the last three years in college and the NFL, there are questions about whether Lance can be the long-term answer for San Francisco.

“I’m excited to go out and show what I can do,” he said. “Same situation that it’s been for me the last two years and really my whole life. Nothing has really changed and I still have the same mindset. … I just worry about what these guys think in this locker room, what the coaches think, what people in this organization think. Anything outside of that is totally out of my control. So I don’t let that have any effect on me.”

NOTES: All-Pro DE Nick Bosa said he wants to sign a long-term contract to stay in San Francisco but will be patient and leave that up to his agent.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Banchero headlines field for All-Star Rising Stars event

Paolo Banchero’s rookie season will include a trip to NBA All-Star weekend.

The Orlando Magic forward and No. 1 pick in last year’s draft was announced Tuesday as a participant in this year’s Rising Stars Game, to be held in Salt Lake City on Feb. 17, two nights before the All-Star Game.

Banchero — who leads all rookies with a 20.7 points-per-game average — may still be selected as an All-Star reserve. Those players will be revealed Thursday.

“Anytime you can get a chance to be a part of All-Star weekend, you can’t say no,” Banchero said. “Especially me, being a rookie, first year, never experienced it before, it’s always been the dream to just be a part of that whether it was Rising Stars or as a reserve. I’m definitely excited to get there and just see what it’s like.”

Banchero is on pace to be the first rookie to average 20 points per game since Luka Doncic in 2018-19. He also is fourth among rookies in rebounds per game entering Tuesday and third among them in steals per game.

Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said the All-Star experience — whether just for Rising Stars or not — will have an impact on Banchero.

“Just being around other young players that have found themselves in that position, it does so much because it’s your peers,” Mosley said. “You’re around a group of young men who are the elite of the league in that class. I think it says something to the work that you’ve put in, the work that he’s put in. It’s going to do wonders for how he continues to believe in himself, what we’re doing as a team and his continued growth.”

Also picked for the game from this year’s rookie class: Detroit’s Jalen Duren and Jaden Ivey, Atlanta’s A.J. Griffin, Utah’s Walker Kessler, Indiana’s Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard, Sacramento’s Keegan Murray, Houston’s Jabari Smith Jr., San Antonio’s Jeremy Sochan and Oklahoma City’s Jalen Williams.

The second-year players selected were New Orleans’ Jose Alvarado and Trey Murphy III, Toronto’s Scottie Barnes, Oklahoma City’s Josh Giddey, Houston’s Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun, New York’s Quentin Grimes, Denver’s Bones Hyland, Cleveland’s Evan Mobley and Orlando’s Franz Wagner.

There also will be a team of G League players in the Rising Stars event, composed of Sidy Cissoko, Mojave King, Scoot Henderson, Kenneth Lofton Jr., Mac McClung, Leonard Miller and Scotty Pippen Jr.

The 21 NBA players will be drafted into three seven-player teams. Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Deron Williams will serve as coaches for those teams, while Jason Terry will coach the G League team.

All four teams will play a semifinal game with a target score of 40, and the two winners will then play the championship game with a target score of 25.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Griner’s return, free agency raises charter flight concerns

Brittney Griner’s return to the WNBA this summer after being traded in a dramatic prisoner swap in December with Russia has collided with free agency, creating potential travel complications for the league out of safety concerns for her.

If Griner, who is a free agent but has said she’ll return to Phoenix, needs special travel accommodations — such as chartered flights — the league will have to come up with a plan for the 6-foot-9 star. Griner’s safety when traveling will be a top priority for the team and the league.

“We are very cognizant of BG’s unique situation,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told The Associated Press. “We’ve been planning and we’ve been thinking it through with security experts. BG’s side, our side. We’ll find the right time to comment on it when she signs with a team.”

That could come Wednesday, when free agents can officially sign.

While the Griner situation is unique, other marquee players raised the issue of charter flights, which teams have deemed too costly.

The current collective bargaining agreement requires that all teams fly commercial and doesn’t allow teams to charter flights. Any change in that would have to be approved by both the union and the league.

“No one wants to make this work more than me,” Engelbert said. “That’s why we’re working so hard to transform the economic business model. We’ve had positive changes over the last couple years, but we’re not going to jeopardize the financial viability of the league. We are on the cusp of something big here.”

HOW MUCH WOULD IT COST THE WNBA TO CHARTER FLIGHTS?

Engelbert says it would cost the league about $25 million each season for each of its 12 teams to charter flights to every game. That number has increased about $5 million from previous estimates by the commissioner due the new 40-game WNBA schedule this season, fuel costs and other factors.

The estimated cost per franchise to charter flights would be approximately $2 million. Air travel expenses currently for each team is about $150,000, according to two people familiar with the costs. The people spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly address the issue.

“We did it last year for the Finals and we have experience on how much it costs for routes we need to fly,” Engelbert said. “We are monitoring and updating our analysis. We are going to try and get an economic model to fund this as soon as we can.”

WHAT HAPPENS IF A TEAM CHARTERS FLIGHTS?

If teams violate the current CBA they could be fined.

The New York Liberty were fined a WNBA record $500,000 in 2021 for chartering flights to away games during the second half of that season.

HAS THE WNBA CONSIDERED SUBSIDIZING FLIGHTS?

Coveted free agent Breanna Stewart, who has narrowed her choices to a few teams including New York, started a social media campaign to try to help get chartered flights for the league. She tweeted, “I would love to be part of a deal that helps subsidize charter travel for the entire WNBA. I would contribute my NIL, posts + production hrs to ensure we all travel in a way that prioritizes player health + safety, which ultimately results in a better product. Who’s with me?”

Many current and former WNBA and NBA players offered their support. Though any change to travel restrictions would have to be voted on by the union and the league.

“We would need a commitment to it in perpetuity,” Engelbert said. “That’s 250-300 million dollars. Look at the gate and media deal and sponsorship dollars. We’re not close to being able to afford $250 million over the next decade.”

DO WOMEN’S COLLEGE TEAMS CHARTER FLIGHTS?

WNBA players are used to flying charter flights. That’s how they traveled in college.

Title IX legislation requires universities to have equal opportunities for their men’s and women’s athletic programs. The NCAA flies both the men’s and women’s teams on charter flights for the tournament if they are more than 400 miles from the site of their game.

That legislation doesn’t apply to the pros so NBA teams chartering between cities has no effect on what WNBA teams do.

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