Las Vegas Grand Prix will light up the strip tonight on ESPN at midnight. Could set a betting record for F-1

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — The visuals of the world-famous Strip expected to emerge from the Las Vegas Grand Prix on Saturday night has enticed sports bettors so much that the event is expected to set Formula One and motor sports wagering records.

“By leaps and bounds,” said Adam Pullen, Caesars Entertainment vice president of trading. “It’s already eclipsed the highest race of the season, so yeah, it’s going to set records.”

That’s also the case at BetMGM.

“Race weekend in Las Vegas has the potential to shatter every company record for the sport,” BetMGM chief revenue officer Matt Prevost said in a statement. “Popularity for automotive sports in the U.S. continues to grow and the activity we’re already seeing around this event is remarkable.”

This is the first of a 10-year contract between Formula One and Las Vegas, but it got off to a rocky start Thursday when the first practice session ended after about 20 minutes when Carlos Sainz Jr. ran over a manhole cover.

That incident occurred about 8:40 p.m. local time, which is early compared to the rest of the race schedule. Qualifying is at midnight PST Saturday, and the race at 10 that night local time.

So those with vested betting interest are going to have to stay up late — or wake up early — especially on the East Coast.

Given the heavy interest, that doesn’t appear to be a problem.

Pullen said races typically draw bettors especially interested in that circuit, but Las Vegas is attracting more of the casual or cross-over gambler. Even NASCAR, which is far more popular in the United States than F1’s Europe-centric fan base, doesn’t draw the action this race is getting.

“It’ll blow away NASCAR,” Pullen said. “Usually (with) NASCAR when it comes to Vegas, we see an uptick in handle, but it’s not going to be like this.”

Max Verstappen, who already has clinched his third consecutive series championship with an historic season, is the heavy favorite.

FanDuel Sportsbook lists Verstappen, who won a record 17 races this season, as the minus-250 favorite, with 43% of money being bet on the Dutchman.

But Verstappen is not a value bet because the payoff is so low, a major reason his odds went from minus-350 to minus-275 at BetMGM. Many bettors decided to go for a potentially bigger payoff elsewhere.

The trend is similar at Caesars, with Verstappen going from minus-250 to minus-225 “and slowly coming down and down,” Pullen said.

Pullen said there is more uncertainty with this race, however, because it is a first-year event and even the drivers aren’t sure what to expect.

“It’s a street course — even though it’s going to be a fast street course, so they’re saying — but sometimes there’s no room for error on those turns” Pullen said. “In theory, street courses, you would think, would leave it open to more unusual results. Qualifying’s going to determine a lot. Of all the races Max Verstappen has lost — Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Azerbaijan — all street courses.”

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