The annual benchmark for legal sports betting in the U.S., is about to get a huge boost.
VSiN is projecting that the total amount of money wagered on the Super Bowl will double from last year, to around $320 million.
The handle -- the total amount wagered -- on last year’s Eagles-Patriots Super Bowl was just short of $158.6 million here in Nevada, which had a virtual monopoly on legalized sports betting. But since the Supreme Court overturned the federal ban in May, there are now seven more states offering legalized sports betting and they should combine to equal Nevada’s handle, according to estimates.
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Forecasting each state’s handle is not an easy task because we’re in uncharted territory for legal Super Bowl handle with all these other states. It's at least as hard as picking the game itself -- which opened around pick 'em between the Patriots and Rams and was quickly bet to the Patriots -2 -- or a lot of the proposition bets.
Even though there is Super Bowl betting data dating to 1993 in Nevada, it’s not even a given to predict that handle. Last year’s $158.58 million handle was a 14.5% increase over the Patriots-Falcons handle the previous year, but it seems a stretch – no matter how attractive this year’s matchup is – to expect another 14.5% increase as that would put Nevada’s handle over $180 million.
While sports betting – and pro football is still king – continues to boom in the Silver State, we don’t know how many regular visitors for Super Bowl Weekend will choose to not travel to Las Vegas now that they have legal betting in their home state. It’s not unreasonable to predict that any increase over last year’s record will be canceled out by this situation.
To formulate Super Bowl handle predictions for each state (including Nevada), we went back over each regular-season month since the 2012-2013 season (the last time before Nevada topped $100 million in Super Bowl handle) and compared to each season’s SB handle. Even this approach has issues. For one, Nevada doesn’t separate NFL and college football, so it seemed reasonable to cut the figures in half (which is the consensus that NFL still handles much more per game, but the sheer volume of college football games on Saturdays evens things out overall on most weekends). We tossed the September comparisons because those only involve 3 NFL weekends each season. We also tossed out December because that month sees a dip in handle as the NCAA regular season is over and there are fewer college bowl games that month than we get on one normal Saturday. We also tossed Octobers as Pennsylvania books didn’t start accepting bets until November.
What we found was that Nevada took in about $42 million per week in NFL bets during the month of November (being sure to factor in the fact there were five Sundays in October 2014 and October 2015 while four in all the rest). In the 2016-17 season that ended with the Patriots-Falcons matchup, the Super Bowl handle of $138 million was 3.45 times the average weekly handle of $40 million that October. In the 2017-18 season that ended with the Eagles-Patriots game, the record handle of $158.58 million was 3.78 times the average weekly handle of $42 million.
If we apply those to this November’s average weekly NFL handle of $46.25 million, we get a Super Bowl handle that ranges from $162 million to $174 million in Nevada. That seems reasonable.
It’s even more difficult to project Super Bowl handles for the other seven states: Delaware (which started taking bets on June 5), New Jersey (June 11), Mississippi (Aug. 1), West Virginia (Aug. 30), New Mexico (Oct. 16), Pennsylvania (Nov. 15) and Rhode Island (Nov. 26). For starters, like Nevada, most of those also combine NFL and NCAA in the “football category,” so we’re left to assume the handle is split 50/50, plus the reporting of these figures haven’t been as consistent. However, the biggest adjustment that has to be made is that new books are opening all the time, so even the November figures can be obsolete.
Still, we did our best and came up with estimated Super Bowl handle of $113.75 million in New Jersey, based off of its $260 million football handle in November, cut in half for just NFL and divided by four weeks to get a weekly average of $32.5 million and then multiplied by 3.5.
In Mississippi, the handle was $28 million on football in November, so we cut that in half for just NFL and divided by four weeks to get a weekly average of $3.5 million and multiplied by 3.5 to get $12.25 million.
Pennsylvania is the trickiest because – in addition to the Hollywood Casino at Penn National being the only book to open in November, so those figures are mostly useless – the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh and SugarHouse didn’t open until mid-December, though both outhandled Hollywood Casino. Adding more uncertainty, but certainly more dollars is the fact the South Philadelphia Turf Club opened last week and Harrah’s Philadelphia is having its grand opening on Thursday, just in time for the lead up to Super Bowl 53. I made a guesstimate of $15 million in Super Bowl handle for Pennsylvania, but there’s a very good chance that will be way short.
The other states are much smaller at $7 million for Delaware, $5 million for West Virginia, $3 million for New Mexico and $2 million for Rhode Island, but add em all up and I have it at $320 million nationally. That figure is using the low-end estimate of $162 million in Nevada; if we end up closer to the $174 million estimate, that puts us at $332 million, or nearly one-third of a billion!
We’ll see in the coming weeks how close we came on this forecast, but it’s clear that sports betting is continuing to explode in popularity (or at least in mainstream acceptance out in the open) and isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon. In fact, we can safely project that this year’s record will be short-lived as we’ll probably have twice as many states with legalized sports betting by this time next year and a legal Super Bowl 54 handle of at least $500 million.