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Super Bowl Safety Is Blow for Broncos and Las Vegas Sportsbooks

Seahawks Snapper Clint Gresham
Long snapper Clint Gresham of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates his team's 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos to win Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Photographer: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks weren’t the only ones celebrating when Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos misplayed the Super Bowl’s opening play from scrimmage into a safety. Bettors were rejoicing as well.

For the third straight year, a safety was scored in the Super Bowl, a blow for Las Vegas sportsbooks forced to pay off one of the most popular annual bets in the National Football League championship game. The odds were about 8-1 for a safety, and 50-1 for it being the game’s first score.

“We lost $62,000 twelve seconds into the game,” Jimmy Vaccaro, who manages the race and sportsbook at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas, said in an e-mail. “A sizable scream went out when it occurred.”

Broncos center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball over the head of quarterback Manning and into the end zone at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, giving the Seahawks an early 2-0 lead with the fastest score in Super Bowl history. Seattle went on to a 43-8 win and their first title.

Chamath Palihapitiya, a minority owner of the National Basketball Association’s Golden State Warriors and an original member of Facebook Inc.’s management team, last night posted a photo on his Twitter account of a ticket showing he won $10,500 on a $2,000 bet there would be a safety.

U.K. bookmaker William Hill Plc said it paid $1,250 on a $25 wager at one of its Las Vegas sports books that a Seattle safety would be the first score of the game.

Positive Result

While the safety proposition bet was a loser for Nevada’s sportsbooks, RJ Bell of Las Vegas-based handicapping information website said the game’s result overall was probably a positive one for oddsmakers. Bell estimates that 68 percent of bets were on the Broncos, who were 2 1/2-point favorites, with only 32 percent on the Seahawks.

No Super Bowl underdog had a bigger margin of victory than the Seahawks, who became the fourth team to win the game by 35 or more points. The odds that Seattle would win by between 34 and 38 points were 100 to 1.

This year’s Super Bowl is expected to set a record for wagering, surpassing the record handle of $98.9 million set last year at Nevada sportsbooks, Vaccaro said. The Nevada Gaming Control Board will release the official Super Bowl betting totals later this week. Legal wagering on the game in Nevada accounts for less than 1 percent of the total handle, according to Bell, who estimates than more than $10 billion was bet on the Super Bowl worldwide.

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