Much like the two offenses in Sunday’s high-octane Super Bowl, it seems nothing can stop betting on the big game from soaring to record heights these days.
Nevada sportsbooks drew Super Bowl handle of $158.6 million, shattering the previous record of $138.5 million set in 2017 from the riveting Atlanta Falcons-New England Patriots overtime contest. This time around, the Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles combined for the most yards ever in an NFL game, and the Eagles got the outright upset 41-33 as a 4.5-point underdog.
“I was hoping for $150 million, so it exceeded my expectations,” said Mike Lawton, senior research analysts for the Nevada Gaming Control Board, which released the final handle figure Monday afternoon. “I just kept reading all last week that there were more six-figure bets than anyone can remember. I thought we’d get to $150 million, and I was pleasantly surprised that we exceeded that number.”
Jay Kornegay, who runs the Las Vegas Superbook as vice president of race and sports for the Westgate, said volume at his shop pointed to higher activity statewide and the 14.5 percent increase in Nevada books’ handle.
“No surprises here,” Kornegay said. “Results varied from book to book and most likely were influenced by top house players. Most expected the handle record, but maybe not by 14 percent. TV viewers are down, but the ratings at the betting counter remain very strong.”
Jay Rood, vice president of race and sports for MGM Resorts, told Covers on Sunday night that it was apparent another Super Bowl handle record was in the cards.
“We exceeded last year’s numbers, we exceeded them pretty big,” Rood said. “Again, the halftime, and I don’t know if it was because everybody was expecting some more (Tom Brady) magic, but we had tremendous halftime handle. That’s probably what helped make us get up over the threshold from last year.”
While the statewide handle was nothing short of phenomenal, the hold was another story. Sportsbooks held just $1.17 million, or 0.7 percent, the lowest hold percentage since the 2011 Super Bowl, when the Green Bay Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 as a 3.5-point favorite. Books held 0.8 percent that year, netting about $724,000 on $87.5 million in wagers.
“When I was watching the game, when it was over, I honestly thought we were gonna be looking at our third loss since we began tracking these numbers, in 1991,” Lawton said. “A Philly victory was gonna be pretty bad.”
Many books across Las Vegas and around the state reported very small wins, although some suffered significant losses – most notably William Hill US and CG Technology. On the flip side, Caesars Palace books came away with a seven-figure win, as first reported by ESPN.com.
Rood said MGM books also ended up a small winner, thanks in part to that aforementioned heavy halftime wagering on the Patriots.
Last year, sportsbooks held $10.9 million of that $138.5 million, or 7.9 percent. With 2017 handle that crashed past $150 million, it’s certainly intriguing to think of what would have been for sportsbooks if the favored Patriots delivered a win – even one in which they didn’t cover the spread, as there were a few seven-figure and many six-figure wagers on Eagles moneyline.
“If that would have happened, it would have been pretty spectacular for the books,” Lawton said.
Instead, it was a spectacular day for the bettors. But Lawton said there’s no need to lament for long.
“In the long run, it works itself out,” he said. “Historically, the hold is about 7.3 percent. So next year, we’ll do it again and hopefully hold a little bit better.”
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.