Super Bowl wagers at Las Vegas sports books may top $90 million for the first time in three years with a matchup of two of the National Football League’s most popular and successful teams.
The Green Bay Packers have won a record 12 NFL championships, including three Super Bowl titles, while the Pittsburgh Steelers’ six Super Bowl victories are more than any other franchise. The Packers are 2 1/2-point favorites for the Feb. 6 game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Because of the close point spread, the popularity of the participating teams and the recovering economy, the total amount legally wagered at Nevada’s 176 sports books is projected to be closer to the Super Bowl-record $94.5 million of 2006 than last year’s $82.7 million handle when the New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts.
“We should see a pretty decent jump here,” Jay Rood, sports book director at the MGM Mirage in Las Vegas, said in a telephone interview. “I don’t think we’re going to challenge the record, but realistically $89 (million) or $90 (million) would be in reach. That would be a really strong increase.”
After four straight Super Bowls with more than $90 million in wagers in Nevada from 2005 to 2008, the championship game failed to eclipse that milestone the past two years, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
The Steelers’ 21-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks five years ago set the record for Super Bowl wagering in Nevada and they remain one of the most popular teams among NFL bettors and fans, oddsmakers said. The Steelers ranked fourth in a 2010 Harris Interactive poll of the NFL’s most popular teams, one spot behind the Packers.
“We have two of the most attractive teams that we could wish for,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, director of sports operations at Lucky’s Race and Sports Book. “I’m pretty positive we’ll top last year’s statewide handle and I would suggest we’ll probably reach $90 million. There’s great tradition and a great following from both teams.”
Frank Streshley, a senior analyst for the Nevada Gaming Control Board, said gains in the state’s gambling revenue over the last six months and the narrowest Super Bowl point spread in 27 years also may help produce an increase in betting.
“Those three factors all being positive, it should definitely be a handle that surpasses last year,” said Streshley, who declined to estimate a total. “It’s tough because you just don’t know the five-digit, six-digit wagers that are going to come in.”
The Super Bowl is annually the most-wagered-upon single game in the U.S. and more than $10 billion could be bet worldwide, according to RJ Bell, president of Las Vegas-based handicapping information website Pregame.com.
Less than 1 percent of that total is bet legally in Las Vegas, Bell said, with hundreds of millions of dollars wagered at online sports books outside the U.S.
The Packers and Steelers have been the two most popular teams among bettors in the NFL playoffs.
“We’ve got a good matchup and the fact of the matter is the NFL (postseason) has been a pretty tough go for us, so there’s been a lot of people out there cashing tickets,” the Mirage’s Rood said. “So I’m sure they’re going to have plenty of money to reinvest in this game.”