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For many fans in Texas that have struggled through the last four months without baseball, basketball, or hockey, the wait is just about finished.

Next week, Major League Baseball will lead the major sports back, with the other two following just behind in the last days of July/first day of August. This is just before the NFL begins preseason games in mid-August.

So sports are back: they may not look the same, but it gives fans and bettors something else to watch, after the successful return of European football and some other sports around the world.

MLB will return next Thursday with the two favorites to win each pennant (and the World Series), plus the reigning champions.

The Washington Nationals will get a chance to raise their first flag in franchise history in the early game (5:05 MDT), taking on the American League favorite New York Yankees. Washington is +120 on the money line, with the Yankees -130. In the second game, the National League favorite Los Angeles Dodgers will host eternal rivals San Francisco at 8:08 MDT.

With the shortened season, this could be the year to throw some money down on a team outside of the heavy favorites. The Dodgers and Yankees are both +375 to win the World Series, with the Houston Astros +600 to win their second title in four years after last season’s terrible ending.

One team getting some love that could make a run is the Tampa Bay Rays at +1600. This might be the season the Rays finally move into the baseball elite.

If you think the Rangers can win the title, you will get some very good odds: +6600. You can get them at +3300 to win the AL Pennant, which is behind nine teams. The Yankees are the favorite at +170, but Houston (+300) has had their number of late. Tampa Bay is the fourth favorite at +600, just behind Minnesota (+600).

The NBA will return a week after baseball, on July 30. The Western Conference has six of the top 10 favorites to win the title, but after the top three teams, the odds go up dramatically.

Sports betting firm William Hill expects the winner to be one of the two Los Angeles teams, either the Lakers (+240) or the Clippers (+320), or the Milwaukee Bucks (+260). The Bucks are overwhelming favorites to come out of the Easerrn Conference (-190), with Boston (+700), defending champion Toronto (+800), Miami (+900), and Philadelphia (+1000) all hanging around the periphery. The Lakers are +140 to win the Western Conference, with the Clippers +170.

The two Texas teams, Houston (+750 to win the Western Conf., +1600 NBA title) and Dallas Mavericks (+1800 WC, +3500 NBA title), are in the conversation. But the question has to be, after the seeding is finished, can anyone make a run at the two Los Angeles teams?

My guess would be no. I will take a Clippers Bucks final (if everyone is healthy) and Milwaukee to hoist the trophy.

The NHL will be the last of the three leagues coming back soon to start (August 1). On William Hill, the odds are pretty spread out between east and west. Boston is the favorite at +550, but five other teams are currently priced at +800 or lower: Vegas Golden Knights (+600), Tampa Bay Lightning (+650), Washington Capitals (+800), St. Louis Blues (+800), and Colorado Avalanche (+850). Check out the latest William Hill promotional offers ahead of the MLB betting bonanza.

The Dallas Stars are getting some hype at +1500, and could be a worthy long shot play. But I may take a shot with Colorado.

Texas may follow the lead of other states like Illinois and allow legal online betting in 2021, but of course that may change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For bettors in the El Paso and Southern New Mexico area, you can visit sportsbooks at Santa Ana Star Casino & Hotel and Hilton Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino (pending state health laws) to place wagers.

People living in New Mexico may have to be happy betting in casinos for now.

If you or anyone you know has a gambling problem, call 1-800-GAMBLER.

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