Super Bowl Odds 2012: Why New York Giants v. New England Patriots will be Most Bet on Super Bowl of All Time

Super Bowl Odds 2012: Why New York Giants v. New England Patriots will be Most Bet on Super Bowl of All Time
Super Bowl XLVI's rematch of Super Bowl XLII may drive record gambling bets. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Super Bowl XLVI pits the New York Giants against the New England Patriots, arguably the most intriguing and fortuitous pairing for the National Football League’s annual championship contest this year. This year’s game is the highly anticipated rematch of the very recent Super Bowl XLII, where the 13 1/2  point underdog Giants upset the then 15-0 undefeated Patriots in dramatic fashion.

The Patriots also seek to avenge a last minute 24-20 home loss to the Giants in this year’s regular season, which snapped New England’s 20 game home winning streak.  The story lines of the game itself, the two large media markets involved, and the continuing upward trend of viewership of the Super Bowl consistent with Nielsen ratings assures this will be the most watched television program in US history.

In terms of gambling dollars, Las Vegas may follow suit.

According to Michael Lawton, Senior Research Analyst for the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the agency which regulates sports betting in the state, the last two Super Bowls saw an increase in “handle” on the Big Game with last year seeing a 5.4% increase. Handle is the industry term for the total amount of dollars wagered on an event.

The first pairing of Eli Manning versus Tom Brady brought $92,055,833 handle to Nevada sports books, the third highest amount ever wagered on the Super Bowl. The game’s all-time high handle of $94,534,370 was wagered on Super Bowl XL’s Pittsburgh Steelers 21-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

Super Bowl XL set a record for most gambling bets all time.
Getty Images

Lawton believes this year has the potential to break XL’s record number. “[T]here has been $1.1 billion bet on football statewide which is an 11% increase ($111.2 million).  [W]e are expecting to see an increase in betting over last year’s total of $87.5 million based on the increased visitation (in Nevada tourism) we have been seeing all year (4.4%), the low point spread, and the popularity of the teams who played in the 2008 Super Bowl, which is considered by some the best super bowl ever.”

The New York Giants’ five game winning streak, the G-Men’s manhandling of last year’s Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, New England’s shaky defense, and the history between these two teams, contributed to Las Vegas sports books opening Super Bowl odds with the Patriots as a slim 3 point favorite to the Giants.

Historically, Vegas’s “hold” or “win percentage” is lower on the Super Bowl when the point spread is lower (under a touchdown).  A hold is the amount of money sports books retain from the handle.  The higher the hold percentages, the larger amount of the handle casinos keep. Anomalies do happen, such as the last time Vegas lost money on the Super Bowl during Super Bowl XLII.

Holds and handles are not necessarily tied to point spreads. Over the last ten years proposition bets (or “prop” bets) have become wildly popular.  Prop bets are wagers made on occurrence or non-occurrence during a game not directly affecting the outcome of the game. Prop bets in the form of the halftime score, player to score the game’s first touchdown, or quarterback stats are the most popular and are the oldest of their kind. Increasingly prop bets have become more novel.

Will Madonna wear black at halftime at Super Bowl XLVI?

Robert Smith, Manager at Leroy’s Horse and Sports Place in Vegas, is an expert on prop bets. “Prop bets are fun,” Smith explains.  Prop bets can include what color this year’s halftime performerMadonna will wear, who the Super Bowl MVP will thank first, and even which Super Bowl commercial has the highest Nielsen rating. Although novel bets are increasingly popular, there is a limit according the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Prop bets have to be those “decided on the field of play” according to Smith. Most novel bets like those regarding Madonna or other halftime performers are wagered with online or offshore betting businesses outside of Nevada’s jurisdiction. The Gaming Board’s interest is in the integrity of gaming in the state and any bet unrelated to the game being played on the field or which uses no historical data for sports books to design statistically calculated bets are excluded (like the prop bet fiasco last Super Bowl on the amount of time it would take Christina Aguilera to sing the national anthem;Aguilera skipped a part of the song, and threw off the data on her singing speed and upset gamblers).

That being said, prop bets have a higher hold percentage and help drive handle. According  VegasInsider.com, Inc., which holds itself out a the “global leader in sports gaming information” ,sports books hold a far more significant advantage in setting the odds on prop bets in their favor, thus driving up the hold percentage. Nevada Gaming Control Board, in its discretion may grant approval to casinos approve certain novel prop bets. Leroy’s Horse and Sports Place brings in 20-30% of its Super Bowl handle in prop bets and some casinos bring in as many as 50% of their handle.

Sports Book at Venetian Hotel in Vegas.

Smith did not seem as optimistic as Lawton on the potential record setting gambling dollars for the upcoming game. According to Smith, more people are gambling, but the average dollar spent is less. “You’re seeing more tickets but less volume.”

As Smith opined on the discussion of amounts his book might earn on Sunday, his hopes brightened. “I hope we get over $90 (million). Last time over $90 million was...when these last teams met! You not only have big sports teams but you have sports teams whose fans REALLY gamble.”

An attractive matchup, increased viewership, upward gambling trends, a low betting line, and the popularity of novel prop bets set the stage for potentially a historic Super Bowl. Putting your money on the Patriots to beat the Giants is far from a sure bet, but it might pay for fans to join in on the action off the field on Super Bowl Sunday.

Exavier B. Pope, Esq. is an entertainment and sports attorney, syndicated writer, and sports business and law blogger for ChicagoNow. All opinions expressed are those solely of Mr. Pope.

(c) 2012, Exavier Pope

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