Football bettors aren’t the only ones gambling on the upcoming Super Bowl. Sportsbooks are also taking a chance, hoping to avoid the dreaded middle during the biggest betting day of the year.
Some books opened the spread for Super Bowl XLVII with the San Francisco 49ers as 4.5-point favorites over the Baltimore Ravens on Feb. 3. Early action on the Ravens has forced some markets to adjust their lines, moving the spread to -4 and eventually -3.5.
That adjustment leaves the door open a crack for some opportunistic bettors to middle the Super Bowl, playing Baltimore +4.5 and San Francisco -3.5, hoping for the final score to land squarely on a 4-point difference and subsequently winning both wagers.
“It’s not much of a concern,” Jay Rood, sportsbook director at the MGM Mirage, which moved from 4.5 to 3.5, told Covers. “In the overall scope of things, that money we took at -4.5 will be wiped out by the adjustments to the line and vig. We took some plays at 4.5 but nothing that is too concerning.”
While action on the underdog started the spread trending downward, many books decided to only stop briefly on a 4-point line before moving to 3.5 in order to avoid the chances of a refund if the game did finish on four.
This past season, just over five percent of games finished with a four-point difference on the scoreboard (13 of 256 games). However, NFL bettors have already seen one four-point finish in the playoffs – the 49ers’ 28-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in last weekend’s NFC Championship Game.
Since 2001, just 5.1925 percent of NFL regular season games have landed on four (159 of 33,064), with the most coming in 2008 when 23 of 256 contests (8.98 percent) were settled by exactly four points. As for the playoffs in that same time span, seven of 55 postseason (12.73 percent) matchups have been decided by four points – two in last year’s playoffs including Super Bowl XLVI (Giants 21, Patriots 17).
In fact, some sportsbooks found themselves in a similar situation last February having moved the spread for Super Bowl XLVI from New England -3.5 to -2.5, briefly exposing themselves to the middle if the final score finished on three – one of the most common margins of victory in the NFL at over 15 percent.
With more than a week before Super Bowl XLVII and the majority of wagers coming in the final few days before the Big Game, the action books did take at 4.5 will pale in comparison to the money bet at 3.5 and at where ever the spread may go before kickoff on Feb. 3.
“Yes, there is an opportunity to middle but it’s not as much of a concern with us as being on the right number come game day,” says Rood.