College sports are king in Iowa. In the western parts of the state, that means Nebraska football is supreme. That popularity has resulted in a significant Nebraska futures liability for the Hawkeye State’s fledgling sportsbooks.
That’s dependent on the Cornhuskers producing a significant turnaround from their 4-8 record in 2018. Many Iowa books are feeling the effects of fans’ optimism.
Nebraska futures liability a boom or bust for Iowa books
The upside of optimism about Nebraska’s football team this year is that it’s driving people to Iowa sportsbooks. No action has been taken to legalize sports betting in the Cornhusker State itself.
Sportsbooks on the western side of Iowa have felt the greatest effect. The Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs, for instance, has seen almost 60% of the bets on which team will win the 2020 College Football Playoff placed on Nebraska.
While the liability at just the Ameristar approaching a quarter of a million dollars within a mere two weeks of Iowa sports betting going live is significant, there is yet the potential for even more.
How things could go terribly wrong if things go right
Should Nebraska win a national title this season, Iowa books would quickly go into the “big red” for the year. With one loss already on the schedule, the margin for error is slim.
While the greatest liability is on the Cornhuskers winning it all, there are other dangers for sportsbooks. Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez is Ameristar’s greatest liability in Heisman futures, for example.
Most of the action on the Big Ten championship game is on the Huskers, as well. That’s perhaps the greatest worry because that’s not far out of the realm of possibility.
Nebraska’s contention in the Big 10 West division
While the Cornhuskers will have to contend with teams like an actual Iowa team in the Hawkeyes and Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten West Division, they have a great chance to win the division.
Some books have bets available on Nebraska doing so, but more have odds on the Huskers winning the Big Ten title game. While the Big Ten East champion would be a formidable obstacle, anything can happen in a one-game situation.
Should the Cornhuskers win the Big Ten title, that would likely bring dozens of bettors to Iowa books. They would demand payment on those bets, tickets in hands.
The Cornhuskers get Iowa and Wisconsin at home this season. The toughest road game for Nebraska could be Purdue, but based on the Boilermakers’ 34-31 loss at Nevada to open the season, that looks less daunting.
If the Huskers run the table and then defeat Michigan or Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, they could be a strong candidate for the playoff committee. If they are selected, then they would be two wins away from putting sportsbooks in western Iowa in a state of panic.
Two Nebraska losses would calm those fears. That would turn all the bets on the Huskers from a liability to a win for western Iowa’s books. Nebraska basically needs to run the table to get into the semifinals now; a two-loss Nebraska team has a tough path to get in.
The fate of those young books, as well as Cornhusker fans’ stress levels, are in the hands of players like Martinez.