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Gaming Guru

Matt Youmans

Nevada sees slight Super Bowl handle increase

10 February 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- On the field, where Drew Brees led the New Orleans Saints to an upset victory, the Super Bowl featured a surprising finish. At Nevada sports books, the results were more predictable.

The statewide wagering handle of $82.7 million represented a slight increase from the game's 2009 handle, and the books posted a win for the 14th time in 15 years, holding 8.3 percent.

Brees and the Saints, 41/2-point underdogs, overcame a 10-point deficit to defeat the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 on Sunday. The matchup was attractive, but a down economy is showing even the Super Bowl has its betting limits.

A state-record $94.5 million was wagered on the game in 2006. But the handle of $81.5 million last year was an 11.5 percent decrease from 2008.

"I guess what we're seeing is an absolute leveling off," said Jimmy Vaccaro, a longtime bookmaker and the director of operations for Lucky's sports books. "I just think the wall is there ... until the economy turns around."

The state's 182 sports books won $6.85 million for a win of 8.3 percent, according to figures released Tuesday by the Gaming Control Board. The wagering numbers were consistent with 2009, when the books won $6.7 million (8.2 percent).

"I thought we'd see a higher handle around $86 million," Vaccaro said. "But we had our little win, and I'll still take that."

A late rush of wagering on the Saints -- either with the points or at about plus-180 to win on the money line -- cut into the books' profits. But early wagering on the Colts, including some large money-line plays, and parlay cards were major sources of revenue for some books.

One sports book director said parlay cards were a "huge contributor" to the state's win.

"The Las Vegas sports books are getting too greedy by putting out the 'Ties Lose' parlay cards," professional gambler Steve Fezzik said. "When you start putting the number of field goals at 3 and the number of sacks at 3, you're ripping off the public. Those are certainly things that have about a 50 percent chance to land right on the number. I'm not saying it's not legal, but I think it's too greedy to be ripping off the public like that."

On some "Ties Lose" parlay cards, the total pass receptions for the Saints' Reggie Bush was set at four. Bush had four receptions, so everyone who bet the prop was a loser.