Football bets on the rise

Jan 26, 2010 5:10 PM

Handle up 3 percent for the season

The teams for this year’s Super Bowl are set, and Nevada sports books are gearing up for what they hope is a big finish to the football season.

Traditionally, football draws the most betting interest when compared to other sports such as the NCAA basketball tournament, boxing or horse racing’s Triple Crown.

And with two popular teams, the Colts and the Saints, paired in Super Bowl XLIV, that’s good news for the state’s sports books.

"Forty-three percent of sports wagering is done for football, including college football," Frank Streshley, chief of the Gaming Control Board’s tax and license division, told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "The recession will have an impact and it has had an impact, but less on sports betting than slots and games."

Streshley added that, while sports books have seen decreases in handle in recent years, the drop-offs have been less than in other areas of the casino.

So far, football this season is ahead of last year’s pace. Through the first three months of the season (September through November), the amount wagered on football in Nevada was $707.7 million, nearly 3 percent more than the $687.9 million bet during the same period last year, according to the latest GCB revenue report.

That bodes well for the upcoming Super Bowl, which last year attracted $81.5 million in wagers, the lowest handle since 2004.

And, while Streshley doesn’t believe this year’s handle will top the record $94.5 million wagered in 2006, it could come close to the $90 million threshold.

Another factor that should bolster football’s bottom line is that, for the first time, the Pro Bowl all-star game has been moved to the Sunday before the Super Bowl (Jan. 31).

Sports book directors say this will mean more action on a day that is usually a "dead spot" leading up to the Super Bowl.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: David Stratton