By Peter Gleason

The “smart money” is pouring in on the New England Patriots, which plays the Denver Broncos today for the AFC championship.

On Saturday, the Patriots were holding steady as three-point favorites over the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game. The money was lopsided on New England.

At Caesars Palace sportsbooks, five times as much money had been wagered on the Patriots compared to the underdog Broncos, as reported by At William Hill’s Nevada book, 85 percent of the money bet was on New England. The story was the same almost everywhere. Barring a dramatic rush of game-day money on the Broncos, Vegas will be a big Peyton Manning fan on Sunday.

The early money also was siding with the favorite in the NFC Championship Game. The Carolina Panthers are three-point favorites over the Arizona Cardinals. About 75 percent of the money was on the Panthers at sportsbook operator CG Technology. But Carolina wasn’t necessarily the sharp side.

“The smartest bet we took this week was on Arizona,” CG Technology vice president of race and sports Jason Simbal said Saturday.

Even as money continued to flow in on both favorites — especially on New England — the books weren’t budging on the point spread. Asked what it would take to bump up the Patriots to -3.5, Nick Bogdanovich of William Hill quipped, “a lot more money.”

The MGM made the jump to New England -3.5 (-115) Thursday and immediately took sharp action on the Broncos. But for every one bet on Denver there were still three on New England, MGM sportsbook assistant manager Jeff Stoneback said.

“Since we went to -3.5, it’s been very balanced moneywise,” Stoneback said Saturday morning. “We have a difference of less than $10,000 between the teams.”

That was expected to change Saturday afternoon. A VIP casino guest had inquired about making a six-figure bet on the Patriots, Stoneback said.


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