Sportsbooks fail to beat last year's Super Bowl handle but still win big

Feb 4, 2019 |

After setting records for Super Bowl handle the past three years, Nevada sportsbooks took a step back this year. But the books still recorded the second-highest handle ever and had a more than reasonable win percentage, as well.

On Monday afternoon, the Nevada Gaming Control Board released total handle on Sunday’s Patriots-Rams matchup, taking into account all aspects of betting on the game – side, total, moneyline, futures, proposition bets, in-game, etc. The books took in $145.9 million in wagers, well off last year’s $158.6 million.

However, the books retained $10.8 million, for a 7.4 percent hold rate, way beyond last year’s minuscule win of $1.17 million and 0.7 percent hold rate. So Mike Lawton, senior research analyst for the Gaming Control Board, was hardly disappointed with the big picture.

“We are a little surprised by the decrease. Our checks indicated there would be an increase,” Lawton said. “It is our first decrease since 2015, when New England played Seattle. The amount wagered still represents the second-highest total all-time, so at the end of the day, it is a very solid number.

“Additionally, the win amount represents a very robust number recorded by Nevada’s sportsbooks.”

Jay Kornegay, who operates The SuperBook as Westgate’s vice president of race and sports, echoed that sentiment. While his shop didn’t win to the game itself, The SuperBook did well to props, futures and in-game play.

“Hold wasn’t a home run, but it was a solid RBI double,” Kornegay said. “We’re always hoping for a huge day, and it ended up a solid day. No complaints.”

South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews was pretty upbeat Monday afternoon, as well, saying his shop “somehow wound up OK.” But he and other bookmakers pointed to one aspect that definitely hindered overall handle: in-game betting.


In the lowest-scoring Super Bowl of all time, including just 3 points in the first half of New England’s 13-3 victory, bookmakers were a handcuffed a bit.

“If there’s no scoring, there’s not as much that we can put up in-game,” Andrews said. He noted that a good in-game betting menu requires not only more scoring, but a back-and-forth between the two teams, specifically pointing to the college national championship game between Clemson and Alabama.

Still, even if the Patriots-Rams game was riveting and had a reasonable amount of scoring, that wasn’t going to narrow much of the $12 million-plus difference from last year’s Eagles-Patriots shootout. Kornegay, whose shop took only two six-figure bets, had his thoughts on what led to at least some of the drawdown at the betting window.

“I think the two main reasons were Patriots fatigue and that we lost the New Orleans market,” Kornegay said, noting Saints bettors had been pretty rabid all season long.

MGM books up and down Las Vegas Boulevard were certainly packed for Sunday’s big game. But Monday afternoon, before the official statewide handle was released, MGM vice president of race and sports Jay Rood figured it might be off a bit from last year.

“We were about the same as last year,” Rood said of overall Super Bowl wagering. The difference, though, was that his books and many others retained much more than last year’s dismal result. “We did much better to the props this year.”

Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.


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