Other states get first taste of Super Bowl bets

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There have been plenty of memorable moments over the history of the Super Bowl. But Sunday will be the most memorable, regardless of what happens on the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

For the first time, fans can make a legal wager on the Super Bowl outside of Nevada.

Obviously, there have been billions bet illegally all over the country over the decades. And in much of the United States, that will undoubtedly continue since only eight states have legalized sports wagering in place.

But it’s safe to say that the sportsbooks in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, in Delaware and Mississippi, in New Mexico and West Virginia, and particularly in Rhode Island, are going to be awfully busy this weekend.

Why Rhode Island? Have you noticed which team is playing in Super Bowl LIII?

Not only are gamblers going to be able to bet on the New England Patriots or the Los Angeles Rams, not only are they going to get to wager on the total number of points scored, they’re going to be able to bet on the hundreds of propositions offered by the sportsbooks.

In New Jersey, they’ll also be able to bet on their phone and bet during the game. How big is that?

Here in Las Vegas, we’ve been spoiled for years. Prop bets make up 60 percent of the handle. The Super Bowl parties have become elaborate affairs with “Man Caves” and personalized service costing thousands of dollars.

And because the Rams are in the game and the fact California doesn’t have legalized sports wagering yet, it’s safe to say Las Vegas is going to be even busier than usual.

“So far, it’s business as usual in Nevada,” said Art Manteris of Station Casinos. “The Super Bowl and the NCAA Tournament might be fair trend indicators. But I like this matchup a lot. West Coast vs. East Coast; L.A. vs. Boston, going back to the great Lakers vs. Celtics battles.

“You’ve got the great old coach vs. a terrific young coach. I think we’re going to do fine (in Nevada).”

At MGM Resorts International, Jay Rood knows he’s going to be plenty busy this week.

“I don’t think it’s going to impact Nevada,” Rood, the company’s vice president of race and sports, said of the added jurisdictions having sports betting. “There’s not enough states right now to impact (Nevada).

“I think coming to Vegas for the weekend, go to a (Super Bowl) party and bet and watch the game remains a bucket list item for most people.”

Rood also believes having the Rams in the game will help increase the traffic on the Strip and around the city this weekend.

“Definitely,” he said. “There’s a vibe I’m seeing with all the Rams jerseys that reminds me of Seattle a few years ago when they were in the game. I think we’ll see more traffic in town.”

But Vegas now shares in the festivities. And you can imagine the books in the states that are new to the party are going to go all out to drive traffic to their establishments.

In Rhode Island, where the Twin River Casino has books in Lincoln and Tiverton, they are planning for big crowds and a big handle.

“New England is passionate about its sports,” said Craig Sculos, vice president  and GM of Twin River. “We’ll have a big crowd. It’s the one day where everyone will watch the game. And having the Patriots in it will only make it ­bigger.”

Sculos said the partnership with William Hill has helped Twin River provide a Vegas-like experience for its customers.

“We’ve been very pleased,” he said of the relationship with William Hill, which provided the myriad prop bets, including some tailored for New England sports fans to include the NBA’s Celtics and NHL’s Bruins. “We’re definitely sensing there’ll be a noticeable uptick in interest.”

The line is Patriots -2.5 at Twin River. Perhaps it will get to -3 by kickoff as fans come from all over the region to back Tom Brady and Co.

“We’ll see,” Sculos said. “I expect us to be very busy and we’ll have plenty of places to watch the game.”

In Mississippi, where fans of the New Orleans Saints are still smarting from the no-call on a pass interference in the game’s final two minutes, you could see more support for New England.

At Scarlet Pearl in D’Iberville they’re planning big parties even though the Saints aren’t in the game.

“It’s a shame for us that the Saints aren’t in it but we’ll still be successful,” said Nico Sfanos, sportsbook manager of Scarlet Pearl. “It’s still going to be a busy Sunday.”

The line at Scarlet Pearl had New England -2.5. Sfanos said he’ll have to wait and see what happens this weekend as to whether the line will move. He’s not sure that Saints fans will bet with their heads and take the points or bet with their hearts because they couldn’t bring themselves to root for the Rams.

“That will be interesting,” Sfanos said. “We have some pretty sharp bettors down here, but it will go to three before two.”

Scarlet Pearl has partnered with DraftKings and Sfanos said the full array of prop bets are available at his book.

“Those guys are the best,” he said of DraftKings. “We’re in good hands.”

In Pennsylvania, big crowds are expected at the state’s five sportsbooks..

“It’s going to be huge,” said Bill Keena, general manager of Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. “We’re setting up our Events Center for a big party that can seat 800. We’ll have 12 betting stations and 12 kiosks, five big screens showing the game, food and beverage.”

Rivers customers can also set up their wagers through a website dedicated to the game and get all their wagers lined up before they get to the window. Bettors will be able to have the barcode on their phone app scanned when they get to the window or kiosk and be on their way in a matter of seconds.

Across the state in Philadelphia, Evan Davis, vice president at SugarHouse, is expecting to be extremely busy.

“Every year, we’ve seen a certain amount of excitement,” he said of Super Bowl weekend. “Obviously, last year with the Eagles in the game, it was the biggest. But folks here are passionate about football and now that they can make a legal wager on the game, I expect us to have a lot of people here.”

Many people tend to go to a bar to watch the game. Now, they can go to the sportsbook, bet the game, eat and drink and have the same, if not better, experience.

“I think we’re going to be a viable alternative for people who normally watch in a bar,” Davis said. “We offer a phenomenal viewing experience.”

It’ll be big in New Jersey and Delaware as well. William Hill, which operates the sportsbooks at Monmouth Park and Delaware Park, has its full menu of wagering options available, just like it will in Rhode Island.

Back in Las Vegas, celebrities will be attending parties all around town. At the Westgate, supermodel Elle Johnson, who has appeared in Sports Illustrated and has a social media following of over 1 million, will appear at the property’s free Football Central Viewing Party as well as its VIP Super Pigskin Party.

The Downtown Las Vegas Events Center is expecting more than 7,000 fans to gather and watch the game.

But regardless of where people watch and wager, it’s going to be a memorable Sunday, if for nothing else than the fact millions more can now make a legal bet on the nation’s biggest sporting event.

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About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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