Nevada books shatter Super Bowl handle record; net just small profit

By Dave Tuley  ( senior reporter) 

February 5, 2018 05:13 PM

LAS VEGAS – Nevada sports books handled a record $158.58 million in bets on Sunday’s Super Bowl as expected and just avoided losing for the third time in 28 years on the Philadelphia Eagles’ 41-33 upset of the New England Patriots.

The state’s 198 sports books won a combined $1.17 million on the game for a hold of just 0.7 percent. The only two Super Bowls in which Nevada has lost since statewide records have been kept were the 49ers’ 49-26 rout of the Chargers in 1995 and the Giants’ 17-14 upset of the previously undefeated Patriots in 2008. The 0.7% hold was the lowest since that 2008 game when the books actually had a "negative hold" at -2.8% when losing $2.57 million.

In this year's game, the Patriots rallied from a 22-12 halftime deficit to actually lead 33-32 (which would have been the best-case scenario for most books with the Patriots winning but failing to cover after closing as 4.5-point favorites while still not having to pay out the big money-line bets on the Eagles). However, the Eagles responded with a 14-yard, 75-yard drive aided by a clutch fourth-down conversion at mid-field to reclaim the lead on Nick Foles’ 11-yard TD pass to Zach Ertz. The two-point conversion failed to leave the Eagles ahead 38-33 and then they added a field goal after a strip-sack fumble of Tom Brady to go up 41-33 and had to wait for Brady’s Hail Mary to fall incomplete as time expired to truly begin the celebration for Philadelphia and for Eagles backers, especially those betting them to win straight-up on the money line.

The famous “Bettor X”, who took the Vegas books for an estimated $10 million on last fall’s World Series, single-handedly had a major impact on this year’s results with reported money-line wagers on the Eagles for $3 million at MGM Resorts, two separate $1 million bets at William Hill, $700,000 bets at the South Point and CGT Technology, plus an unspecified “six-figure bet” at the Wynn. With those bets averaging in the neighborhood of plus-160 to plus-170, it’s assumed he cashed for more than $11 million.

Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill US, confirmed that the wagers from Bettor X led to his books suffering a multi-million-dollar loss on the game. He said the bets were made on William Hill’s popular smartphone app but had to set up a wire transfer in advance.

“He bet a million dollars and then came in and asked if he could double the wager,” Bogdanovich said on VSiN’s Follow the Money show with Mitch Moss and Pauly Howard on Monday morning. “We said ‘knock yourself out’ and you know he knocked us out. He’s undefeated against us, so we tip our hat to him. He has a big set, otherwise I don’t know anything about him.”

The MGM Resorts obviously had a major obstacle to overcome, but VP of race & sports Jay Rood reported a small win. Super Bowl future wagering is also included in these figures as they get settled on Super Sunday, plus all books are reporting significant increases on other mobile wagering and in-game bets (most of which were placed Sunday on the Patriots when they were trailing in anticipation of another comeback like last year), so those helped most books cut their losses.

However, the high-scoring game also hit a lot of books hard, especially the Westgate SuperBook, which boasts the most props of all.

“When the smoke clears, I'm hoping for a small win,” Westgate VP of race & sports Jay Kornegay said after the game. “It was a small winner on the game but we got destroyed on props."

The vast majority of bettors tend to bet and cheer for things to happen, so they usually land more on going over yards and for players to score TDs, especially with high-profile players like Tom Brady, Nick Foles, Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, etc. Tony Nevill at the Treasure Island echoed that sentiment.

“We did OK on our futures and on the game, but gave it almost all back in the props," said Tony Nevill of Treasure Island. "It seemed every player went over on their yards. And will they score a TD? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. So, yes, it was all over at the TI.”

On the post-game show on VSiN, the Jimmy Vaccaro of the South Point said the book doubled last year’s handle and came out a small winner. He then Tweeted: “We ended up winning a ham sandwich on the game as we took a lot of money line line bets on the Pats in the last hour. We did very good on props. The point-spread props fell our way and total going over dealt us a good result as Eagles parlays were 60-40 to the under.”

Back to the record handle, this was the fourth time in the last five years that the Nevada books set a record. In the 2014 game between the Seahawks and Broncos, Nevada topped $100 million in handle for the first time at $119.4 million. It dipped to just under $116 million in the 2015 game between the Patriots and Seahawks, but then exploded to $132.5 million in the Broncos-Panthers game in 2016 and then hit the previous record of $138.48 in the Patriots-Falcons last year.

“People are asking for explanations and I don’t know if there is one except people have got a lot of money these days and the economy is good,” Bogdanovich said on Follow the Money. “Sports betting is at at an all-time high. It’s on the front pages, everyone’s accepting it.”

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