The billion-dollar business of fantasy football got another new player: Las Vegas oddsmakers.
Station Casinos Inc., the fifth-largest sports book in the country, was to become the first to release a betting line — at 7 p.m. EDT — and start taking wagers based on players' projected fantasy statistics.
So instead of plunking down a bet on whether the Saints will beat the Colts next week, or how many points will be scored, a better in Vegas can wager that Reggie Bush will finish with more than 16 fantasy points. Or that Peyton Manning might be under 21.
Jason McCormick, director of race and sports for Station's 14 sports books, said consumer demand led to the fantasy-based betting.
"It's kind of like March Madness," he said. "Even though maybe you're not a big college basketball fan, when March rolls around everybody in your office gives you a bracket to fill out. And that's where fantasy football is headed."
More than 13 million people play fantasy football, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. And economic impact studies have put total fantasy spending at more than $1 billion.
Station isn't offering fantasy leagues, just the chance to bet on fantasy projections for 24 players a week.
Some sports books in Nevada — the only state where sports gambling is legal — occasionally offer "proposition" bets on a player's yardage or touchdowns.
But Station is rolling all a player's projected stats together, then setting an over-under betting number based on a scoring system used in many fantasy leagues. With six points awarded for each touchdown, one point for every 30 yards passing and one point for every 10 points rushing or receiving, Station determines a player's fantasy line.
For the opening weekend, for example, Donovan McNabb's fantasy line is 16, and Terrell Owens' is 14.
McCormick, a longtime fantasy player who won a league title in 2005, said betting lines will be available on eight quarterbacks, eight running backs and eight receivers.
The 24-player lineup, chosen by McCormick and a handful of other Station oddsmakers, will change each week. McCormick and another oddsmaker will set the fantasy line based on trends, matchups, recent performance, weather and other factors.
The NFL long has opposed gambling on its games, and league spokesman Greg Aiello declined to comment Wednesday on Station's fantasy wagering.
Kenny White, the chief operating officer at Las Vegas Sports Consultants, an independent oddsmaker consulting group that provides opening betting lines to 90 percent of the Vegas casinos, said Station's approach has not been attempted before.
Officials in the gaming industry and at the Nevada Gaming Control Board also say such an approach is unheard of among the state's 175 sports books.
"I think this is real interesting, because sports betting and fantasy sports have both felt like the other is different and have nothing to do with each other," said I. Nelson Rose, a gambling law expert.
But Andrew Smith, director of research at the industry trade group American Gaming Association, doubts there's much future in Las Vegas fantasy gambling because it's tough to match fantasy league play.
"At least in my experience it's much less about the money than kind of bragging rights and being able to tell your wife or friends who aren't in the league, 'Oh my gosh, I'm just crushing these guys,'" Smith said.
Jeff Thomas, president of the fantasy sports trade association, said Station's new line is simply another form of gambling and has nothing to do with fantasy football.
"I think a lot of businesses are sort of stretching the definition of fantasy lately, trying to capitalize on what's popular," he said. "If I'm a smart businessman, whether I own a casino or want to promote my brand, I'd be looking at fantasy sports."