Popular props, in-game odds, polarizing Patriots could push Super Bowl betting to another record

It took a long time for the Super Bowl betting handle in Nevada to break the $100 million barrier. Indeed, the first time it happened was three years ago, when the Seattle Seahawks wiped out the Denver Broncos and bettors ponied up a then-whopping total of $119.4 million.

That was an increase of more than $20 million from the previous high of $98.9 million set a year earlier, when Baltimore held off San Francisco.

Now, $100 million is but a speck in the rearview mirror. While the 2015 Super Bowl dropped off a bit, to just under $116 million as New England won a thriller over Seattle, the 2016 Big Game blew away all previous marks, with statewide handle of $132.5 million on Denver’s victory over Carolina.

“I think that was a surprise,” Michael Lawton, senior research analyst for the Nevada Gaming Control Board, tells Covers. “We expected a record, but not that big of a surge over the year before.”

With such a surge, Lawton hedged his bet on what to expect when all the money is tallied on the New England Patriots-Atlanta Falcons showdown in Houston Sunday.

“I don’t know if we’ll beat the record. That’s a tough one to crack,” he said. “Just based on the football handle we’re seeing this season, we’re down slightly.”

However, Lawton certainly didn’t rule out a record from Super Bowl LI, saying he’d have a better sense later this week, after getting responses to a survey he’s sending out to sportsbooks around the state. Based on Covers’ discussions with a few shops in Las Vegas and Reno, Lawton just might be surprised again after Super Bowl LI.

“I think we will break the record,” said Terry Cox, sportsbook director at Peppermill Reno and a longtime veteran behind the counter. “I don’t think we’ll have as big of a jump as we had from 2015 to 2016, but I think it’s going to keep increasing. I’m looking at a three to five percent increase overall. That’s the sense I get.”

Cox pointed toward anecdotal evidence not just in the sportsbook, but around entire properties.

“A lot of casinos are just getting more action, all over the casino,” he said. “People are feeling more confident and more secure about going out and spending leisure money. Every weekend, there’s more people spending money – more people spending serious money.”

Jeff Stoneback, sportsbook manager at The Mirage on the Las Vegas Strip, admitted action has been a little slow to this point at his shop and MGM Resorts books as a whole. But he could see that $132.5 million mark having a short shelf life as the Super Bowl record.

“It’s kind of odd. Right now, it seems pretty quiet,” Stoneback said Monday afternoon. “But especially with the advent of in-running wagering, everybody’s got the app, I wouldn’t be surprised if we beat the record. Once the game starts, betting used to be limited to halftime only. With in-game betting, that affects the handle quite a bit. That’s become much more popular over the last couple years.”

The past few years, Northern Nevada books such as the Peppermill and the Atlantis also had regional teams to help bolster action – San Francisco in 2013, Seattle the next two years, and at least a West-based squad in Denver last year. Despite not having that this year, Atlantis sportsbook director Steve Mikkelson doesn’t expect any drop off.

“I don’t think it will affect wagering,” Mikkelson said. “The two teams playing are the best teams in the NFL, and the fact they are both high-scoring only adds to the game, as the public loves high-scoring games. I really expect healthy action on the game and the props.”

Indeed, between standard wagers, in-game betting and the ever-expanding, wildly popular proposition bets, another record could be in the offing.

“This game on paper looks exciting,” Stoneback said. “People like to get involved with that.”

And it won’t hurt that pretty much everybody has an opinion on the Patriots, which could drive action on both teams between now and kickoff.

“There’s no gray area,” Lawton said. “You either love the Patriots or hate them.”

Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.


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