Note: The No. 1 Mater Dei vs. No. 2 St. John Bosco game has been postponed to 7 p.m. PT Saturday night due to rain and lightning.
It’s the latest sign that the apocalypse is upon us . . . or perhaps it isn’t even surprising.
With the biggest national high school football matchup in at least two years on the schedule Friday night in Southern California, an online sportsbook has established a betting line and is taking wagers on winners and the point spread.
Here’s the crazy thing: The clash between USA TODAY Super 25 No. 1 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) and No. 2 St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) isn’t the first time a high school game has attracted betting interest. In fact, it’s not even the only betting line offered for high school games Friday night. There are five currently on the table, from games in Georgia and Western Pennsylvania on the East coast to Washington and Southern California in the west.
The site providing the point spreads for high school matchups is 5 Dimes (5Dimes.eu), a Costa Rica-based online sportsbook and casino that offers betting lines on all traditional sports — NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, European soccer, boxing, MMA, tennis, auto racing — and less traditional fare such as volleyball, chess, snooker (think billiards with a British accent) and, yes, even competitive eating.
American high school football falls somewhere in between. The site normally doesn’t post a betting line unless a game is televised on a local network. If the game is on TV and there is enough interest, 5Dimes often creates a line for it.
Naturally, No. 1 Mater Dei vs. No. 2 St. John Bosco fits those descriptions. The teams are traditional Southern California rivals — they’re separated by just a half hour of pavement — ensuring the game would be on local television regardless of their rankings (in this case, it’s on Fox Sports’ regional network). Both schools have emerged as tremendous feeders of top collegiate and professional football talent — Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen played at St. John Bosco and USC freshman passer J.T. Daniels is from Mater Dei — which brings additional attention and eyeballs . . . and maybe additional wagering.
As of 1:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Mater Dei was a 10.5-point favorite on 5Dimes, an increase of one point from the line posted just after midnight. Percy, the Casino Bonuses and Wagering issues Manager at 5Dimes, refused to disclose his surname and would not provide details about what inspired such a shift, stating only that one of his lines managers determined it was justified.
Traditional betting movement of that sort would indicate some significant sum was placed on Mater Dei as a 9.5-point favorite, which would inspire the line manager to push the expected spread higher to elicit more money being placed on St. John Bosco, thus leveling some of the financial risk facing the sportsbook.
By comparison, Western Pennsylvania power Pine-Richland High School is currently a 34.5-point favorite against Mt. Lebanon in the week’s widest line, while Atlanta-area rivalry Archer vs. Grayson is currently a push (pick ’em).
While he was unavailable for comment both on a previous broader story on high school sports gambling and for this piece, 5Dimes founder Tony Williams spoke to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in 2011, insisting that neither he nor his customers had moral qualms about offering point spreads on high school games. “The customers who bet the games don’t have a problem with morality. If the customers are happy, I am happy,” he said.
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), on the other hand, is not happy. As legalized gambling has advanced, the NFHS has made clear it does not approve of any gambling on its events in sanctioned sportsbooks. So far, New Jersey, Delaware, Mississippi and West Virginia have all fallen in line with that proclamation, abstaining from taking any action on local prep sports. Nevada never has. Rhode Island, New York and Pennsylvania all have had bills pass their state legislatures that would legalize sports gambling, though when (and if) they introduce gambling remains to be seen.
Yet on a national level, games with the profile and pizazz of No. 1 Mater Dei vs. No. 2 St. John Bosco will continue to generate excitement and attention, which will inspire some to look for a place to wager on the outcome. In Costa Rica, 5Dimes’ website is open for business.