John Grochowski

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Ever since the Supreme Court's May ruling opened the door for states to legalize sports betting, the push has been on to take advantage.

New Jersey and Delaware have joined Nevada in adopting full-scale sports betting. Mississippi is right behind, its gaming commission having approved regulations in June. A late July startup in Mississippi is likely.

West Virginia also has legalized betting and approved regulations and may go live this fall. Rhode Island could begin this fall, too, and Pennsylvania and New York seem to be close behind.

Naturally enough, that has sparked reader interest, and sports betting has been the hottest topic in my email box of late. Let's try to answer the most commonly asked questions:

**Why do you have to pay an extra 10 percent when you bet? Does that mean the house edge is 10 percent?

Not all wagers require a 10 percent surcharge, or vig. It's common on bets with no other edge to the house, where you can bet on either side and payoffs are even money — except for the vig.

Among the bets that require the extra 10 percent are point spread wagers — especially common in football and basketball, well publicized and understood even by many non-bettors. If you're making a bet to win $10, you must risk $11, broken down into the $10 wager and $1 for the 10-percent vig.

The house edge is not 10 percent. It's 4.55 percent.

Let's say you and I each bet $11 on opposite sides of a game. Between us, we risk $22. The winner gets his $11 back plus $10 in winnings, for a total of $21.

The house keeps $1. Divide that house profit by the $22 risked, then multiply by 100 to convert to percent, and you get 4.55 percent.

**Can you just pick a winner without worrying about point spreads?

Yes, by betting the money line.

For the money line, you'll see numbers next to each team, a positive number next to the underdog and an negative number next to the favorite. For example, you could see "Team A +165" next to the underdog and "Team B -185" next to the favorite.

That means a winning $100 bet on Team A will pay $165, or you must bet $185 to get a $100 payoff for a winning bet on the favorite.

You'll find money lines in most sports, including football and basketball, and it's the most common way to bet on baseball.

**What is the house edge on the money line?

That varies with the specific numbers. You can find a calculator at

For the example above, the house edge is 2.58 percent. In a game with a heavy favorite, if you saw the line at +300 and -400, the edge would be 4.76 percent. In a tossup, with both teams listed at -110, it would be 4.55 percent.

**How are point spreads and money lines set?

A big part of oddsmakers' jobs is gauging probable bettor behavior.

A game with a money line of +165, -185 might also have a point spread in which the favorite is -3.5.

Those lines are influenced by bettor opinion, and can move up or down if too much money is wagered on one side.

As long as somewhere close to the same amount is wagered on each side, the house is guaranteed a profit. If the books are far out of balance, the house could make a bigger than usual profit, but those also are the times that the house could lose big. Lines are set with that in mind.

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