Bucs equal bucks as U.S. sportsbooks win big

  • Joined ESPN in 2014
  • Journalist covering gambling industry since 2008

U.S. sportsbooks capped one of their most lucrative football seasons ever with a big win on the Super Bowl.

More than $136 million was bet on the Super Bowl LV with Nevada sportsbooks. The state’s books won a net $12.6 million on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ upset of the Kansas City Chiefs, according to figures released Tuesday by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

The $136 million wagered was down 12% from last year’s Super Bowl, in part due to occupancy restrictions at Las Vegas casinos amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, it still was the fifth most since the state began tracking the betting action on the game in 1991. Five of the six reported $1 million-plus bets on the Super Bowl were placed in Nevada.

Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were also among the states reporting wins on the Super Bowl, as betting handle spiked in many of the jurisdictions that have launched legal sports betting markets in recent years. Data from leading geolocation firm GeoComply showed a 267% year-over-year increase in online betting over Super Bowl weekend — despite several sportsbooks experiencing service disruptions in the hours leading up to and during the game.

  • Approximately $117.4 million was bet on the Super Bowl with New Jersey sportsbooks — a 116% increase from last year’s game. After suffering net losses on their first two Super Bowls, New Jersey books won a net $11.3 million.

  • Illinois sportsbooks took $45.6 million in bets on the Super Bowl — 94% of them placed online — and won a net $7.7 million on the state’s first Super Bowl with a legal betting market.

  • Pennsylvania sportsbooks took $53.6 million in bets on the Super Bowl and won a net $9.4 million. Sportsbooks did well with the Bucs pulling the upset and covering the 3-point spread in a 31-9 game that was lower scoring than expected.

“Overall, a solid day,” Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading for William Hill U.S., told ESPN. “The game going under [the total] and Tampa [covering the spread] was the preferred outcome. Not many crazy longshots happened that the public likes to bet on, which was good for us.”

One longshot that did come through was Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes throwing zero touchdown passes. A bettor in New Jersey placed a $3,000 bet with William Hill U.S. on Mahomes not throwing for a score at 15-1 odds and won a net $45,000.

In 2020, Nevada sportsbooks won a net $122.4 million on football bets — both college and pro — making it the most lucrative football year ever for the state’s bookmakers.

Throughout the season, the amount bet on the odds to win the Super Bowl was down significantly, and bookmakers were bracing for a potential big dip in betting on the Super Bowl, especially with casinos restricted to 25% capacity.

Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sports operations for the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, said the betting handle on the Super Bowl at his shop was similar to how much was wagered on last year’s game between the Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers.

“We actually handled more on this year’s game than we did on last year’s game,” Kornegay said. “But the overall number did fall short of last year, but mainly because of the [Super Bowl] futures pool being well short of last year’s pool.”

In normal times, Kornegay says Super Bowl Sunday in the sportsbook feels like a heavyweight fight is going to take place. This year, he said it felt more like a “welterweight” fight.

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