Every year the Super Bowl wagering menu grows in terms of offerings and bettors’ participation. Of the $146 million bet on the game last year in Nevada, at least 50% was wagered on props. With Sunday’s matchup between the 49ers and the Chiefs basically a pick-’em, I believe the ratio will be higher and so will the overall handle. Why? You have two very popular teams with marquee players in a game that’s basically a toss-up. Besides the variety — the South Point Hotel Casino where I’m based has over 400 proposition offerings — many props provide instant results such as multiple coin-toss options that keep you engaged for the entire game. Proposition bets are the games within the game, and in many cases they aren’t determined until the final outcome. From my side of the counter, this is the best buffet on The Strip.
What’s your most memorable Super Bowl and why?
— Lorenzo in Bay Ridge
Considering I have either bet — even the first two, with lunch money backing Brooklyn’s Vince Lombardi and the Packers — or booked every Super Bowl, I have quite a few memorable moments. But the one that will always be close to my heart is Super Bowl III, with Broadway Joe Namath’s guarantee. The NFL had dominated the AFL in the first two title games, the Packers beating Kansas City 35-10 and Oakland 33-14. Then came the vaunted Baltimore Colts, who were so dominant even with Earl Morrall at QB instead of the great Johnny Unitas, injured much of the season. My predecessors in Las Vegas installed the Colts as 18-point favorites, and when Namath was pressed about this, he fired back his famous quote: “We’re gonna win the game. I guarantee!” I see this in the Post and say to my father, “Hey, Pop, doesn’t this mean that even if the Jets lose, we can still win?” He looked at me shaking his head and said: “That’s it. No more hanging around Coney Island with your Uncle Tony!” Well, I wound up getting 19 because my Uncle Tony knew a guy in Philadelphia who knew a guy in Baltimore, where there was a huge Colts bias. Fifty bucks went a long way for a soon-to-be-12-year-old in 1969!
Has Vegas ever lost on a Super Bowl?
— Brady in New Rochelle
Good question. There’s a perception that the house always wins. That’s true in the long run, but in isolated situations, you get the cash. Some Super Bowls have gone the public’s way. The first Super Bowl loss incurred by the books here was SB XIII between the Steelers and Cowboys. Pittsburgh opened early as a 2½-point favorite, and the game was bet to five in most places. When the line settled around -4, the famous Stardust Hotel/Casino advertised “lay 3½, take 4½,” and many people did. Pittsburgh triumphed 35-31. We refer to this game as Black Sunday here in Las Vegas because we got middled, a bookmaker’s worst result. All bets on the Steelers at -2½ , -3 and -3½ got paid. But so did the wagers on the Cowboys at + 4½ and + 5. Any bets involving the number 4 on either side were refunded. Thank goodness for slot machines, craps and 21 tables! The handle then was much lighter than the last 20 years. Getting middled on the Super Bowl today would be far more costly considering the increased handle. Proposition bets help mitigate risk too. The most recent loss for the books here, albeit slight, occurred in 2008 when the Giants beat the Patriots 17-14. New England was a 12-point favorite, and we were flooded with Giants money on game day. But I don’t cry about losses. As many legendary bookmakers, including one of my mentors, Jackie Gaughan, would say, “Eleven is always greater than 10.”
I want to bet this game but can’t make up my mind. I’m hosting a Super Bowl party and want some action. What do you suggest?
— Ronnie in Pittsburgh
The first thing I would say is to stay within your means. Sometimes people go overboard betting this event because it’s the big game. I see you’re in Pennsylvania. There are now sportsbooks there that will have many of the proposition bets we offer here in Las Vegas, such as the player to score the first touchdown, will there or won’t there be a safety, will there or won’t there be a successful two-point conversion, individual player statistical props and hundreds more. If you can’t decide on a team, and many people can’t, the props can keep you entertained and in action for most or all of the game. Bet to enjoy the game and your party.
I have heard about Super Bowl bets tied to other sports. Is this true, and can you give an example?
— Catherine in Queens
Yes, it’s true, and the cross-sport propositions have become quite popular in recent years. Here’s one: Which will there be more of, combined goals scored by Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin on Sunday or combined field goals by the 49ers and Chiefs? Some will involve NBA games and even the PGA event in Phoenix. These are fun for us to create and for you to bet.
I wish you all a Super Sunday.