One of the great attributes of many sportsbook operators here in Las Vegas is that they’ll tell it like it is, for better or worse, in sickness and health. After arguably the greatest Super Bowl ever came to climactic overtime end, Nick Bogdanovich lived up to that attribute.
“It wasn’t a disaster, but it was not a good result for us,” said Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill US, which operates more than 100 shops around Nevada. “In-play betting was the big culprit for us. Every time the Patriots were down by another score, bettors took them, and at big prices.”
Indeed, after a shocking Robert Alford 82-yard pick-six gave Atlanta a 21-0 lead late in the second quarter, bettors kept firing on New England. It proved the right move for them and – at least at William Hill – a perilous decision.
The Pats got two touchdowns and two 2-point conversions in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 28. Tom Brady and Co. then won in the first-ever Super Bowl overtime, 34-28, cashing as a 3-point favorite. Overtime also pushed the closing total of 57.5 over, and in fact, no matter when you may have wagered on the game, over was the winner.
“Atlanta and under would’ve been a better result, I would say so,” Bogdanovich said, noting what many others voiced about Atlanta not running the ball as it approached the Pats’ red zone with a 28-20 lead and less than five minutes remaining. “All you have to do is run the ball, and they throw. I don’t understand it.”
Instead, Matt Ryan took a sack, a holding call pushed the Falcons further back, and Atlanta ultimately punted after initially being well within field-goal range for a two-score lead. The Pats then drove 91 yards, capped by a James White 1-yard run and a 2-point conversion. White later added the game-winning 2-yard TD run on the first possession of overtime.
What was bad for William Hill was outstanding for MGM Resorts books. A beaming Jeff Stoneback, sportsbook manager at The Mirage, said his shop went into the day looking great regardless of who won or where the total landed. But a flood of late under money – much of it sharp – pushed the total down to 57, and there was also a huge surge of Atlanta cash ahead of kickoff, putting The Mirage and other MGM shops in the unusual spot of rooting for New England and over.
“We thought we were dead in the water, no shot at all,” Stoneback said of the mindset at halftime, with Atlanta rolling to a 21-3 lead. “That’s the way the whole season had gone for us. We’re never rooting for the Patriots. The Patriots have cost us a lot of money this season (16-3 ATS), and we were finally able to recoup some of it. If they hadn’t covered, they’d have made it a really tough finish to the season.”
MGM books needed overtime – despite having to pay out quite a bit on that proposition bet – in order to get the dream finish of Patriots and over.
“We actually got lucky,” Stoneback said.
A few blocks away at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, Jay Kornegay had a mixed bag – better than William Hill’s result, but not at MGM’s level.
“The game itself (spread/total) was the worst-case scenario, but it was a small winner for us,” Kornegay said, while echoing Bogdanovich’s sentiments. “With in-progress betting, we had a lot of people who were reloading on the Patriots. Every time Atlanta scored, everybody kept reloading on the Patriots and the over. It was the same scenario during halftime. It would have been a much better result if the Falcons could’ve hung on and won by two or eight.
“It was a different type of game because it was just so balanced. A lot of sharp money was split, maybe toward the Falcons a little bit, and the public was pretty split, with a lean toward the Patriots. We had glimpses of a really big day, until you start seeing it unfolding. We’re certainly not complaining. I’m just explaining the results and our thought process.”
Kornegay said the Superbook was a small winner overall to the props, but as with everywhere else, took a hit on overtime, the 2-point conversion and the missed extra point offerings. In addition, a lot of player-related props went over, particularly with New England’s superstar quarterback.
“Brady was over on everything,” he said.
Stoneback said MGM books got hit hard on those public props, making Sunday’s favorable final score much more important.
“A lot of times, props are the bread and butter of Super Bowl success. They’ve saved us a few times,” he said. “But today, the game was the big one for us.”
Prop bets provided one bright spot for Bogdanovich, on an otherwise rough Sunday for William Hill.
“Lots of handle, and the interest was through the roof,” he said. “We had some big losers. Overtime and the 2-point conversion were horrific. But the overall handle was great, and the props were a good winner for us.”
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.