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Kevin Smith

Super Bowl Wrap-up: Miserable NFL Season for Bookmakers Ends on a High Note

12 February 2005

Some of the New England Patriots' biggest fans might be bookmakers.

For the second year in a row the Patriots won the Super Bowl, and for the second year in a row, record amounts of money were wagered--and won--both at the 173 licensed betting shops in Nevada and the hundreds of offshore Internet operations.

Most operators were hoping for the Patriots to win but not cover the spread, which is exactly what happened, thanks to a late touchdown by the losing Philadelphia Eagles. The Patriots were favored by 7 and ended up winning by 3.

The Nevada Story

Figures released this week by the Nevada Gaming Control Board show that Super Bowl XXXIX set records in Nevada for money wagered--$90.8 million--and money won by sports books--$15.4 million. The handle was up 11.7 percent over last year's handle, and the win total was a 24 percent increase.

The record win tally for Nevada books, which represented a 17 percent take of all the money wagered on the game, also marked the 10th consecutive year that sports book operators in the state won money on the game.

Last year's Super Bowl, a Patriots' win over the Carolina Panthers, produced a record total handle of $81.2 million and a record win of $12.4 million for the Nevada's 152 books.

Frank Streshley, the control board's statistical analyst, said the second straight year of record numbers was bit of a surprise.

"Last year, we were really surprised with the jump," Streshley said. "It all came back to the economy turning around, and we also saw that in the rest of the gaming numbers."

Streshley credited marketing efforts by the casinos for attracting more visitors for Super Bowl weekend. He added, however, that sports books were giving "mixed signals" in the days leading up to the game as to whether handle would set a record.

Super Bowl Betting History
Performances by Nevada Sports Books (combined) for the Last 10 Super Bowls

Source: Nevada Gaming Control Board

The Offshore Story

Solid figures for offshore Super Bowl betting are scarce as usual, but a handful of operators say this year's game was one of their best booked events ever.

Sebastian Sinclair of Christian Capital Advisors estimates that online sports books took in a combined $450-$600 million in Super Bowl bets over the weekend.

Alistair Assheton, general manager of VIP Management Services (which operates, said the outcome of the Super Bowl was the perfect ending to the season.

"We certainly had a banner Super Bowl," Assheton said. "Turnover was way up, and we increased the number of bets we wrote over last year by a third. The result was exactly what we would have hoped for. That last touchdown sent up a roar at our office party."

Like many online operators, VIP used America's most popular betting event to attract casual bettors. Assheton said that on-the-day registrations were up more than 70 percent over last year's Super Bowl registrations, and many of those new users were looking to bet the game for the first time.

"This was an exciting game with the Pats looking for two in a row, and three in four years," he said. "All the hype around Terrell Owens helped raise awareness in the proposition bets as well."

Proposition bets have always been a popular option for Super Bowl betting, and while they're available at land-based books in Nevada, online operators generally offer a much wider variety. For some online books, prop bets make up a large portion of overall Super Bowl business.

"We actually made over 20 percent of our revenue on the day from these bets," Assheton said. "There was a lot of action on the total receiving yards for Terrell Owens and the number of touchdown passes for McNabb. This is a growing business for us as people look for the excitement of the 'game within the game' that these bets allow."

Super Bowl betting was also up in the United Kingdom. Super Bowl trading volume at, which doesn't take action from U.S. bettors, was 20 percent higher in '05 than it was in '04. Betfair's Tony Calvin attributed the increase in action mainly to the game being broadcast live on iTV.

Only nine of the 47 Super Bowl markets offered at Betfair involved the final score. Popular markets included who would be the MVP, who would score the first touchdown, which quarter would be the highest scoring, total offensive yards and even cumulative total of the jersey numbers representing players who scored touchdowns in the game.

Super Bowl Wrap-up: Miserable NFL Season for Bookmakers Ends on a High Note is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith