Super betting handle expected

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Nevada’s casinos may only have 25% of its maximum capacity allowed due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions, but look for the state record in handle to still be broken in Super Bowl LV with the absolutely dreamy matchup of Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against Patrick Mahomes and the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. 

The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook opened the Chiefs -3.5 and a total of 57.5 with 45 minutes left in the Chiefs’ eventual 38-24 win over the Buffalo Bills. Circa Sports opened the Chiefs -3 -120 as did William Hill books and both were quickly moved to -3.5 before getting pushed back to -3 -120. The South Point and BetMGM both opened -3.5. 

“Mahomes against Brady is going to be huge,” Nevada BetMGM’s sportsbook director Jeff Stoneback said. “Handle has been up all season despite less occupancy so I don’t see why the trend wouldn’t continue for the biggest game of the season.

“It’s been weird because six-figure wagers are a common thing now. I used to remember them all because that size of a bet was unique, but now that it’s a regular thing, I lose count of how many we took some weeks.”

Mobile wagering with lots of automated options has helped most books achieve bigger numbers this NFL season. It’s easier than ever for people to bet and bet again in 2021 staying home during a pandemic, churning their winning into other bets immediately. The sportsbook is right in their hands. 

The Nevada record for Super Bowl sportsbook handle was $158 million in 2018 when the Philadelphia Eagles beat Brady and the New England Patriots and the highest win was $19.67 million in 2014 when the Seattle Seahawks thrashed the Denver Broncos, 43-8. 

Early money showed up on the Chiefs at -3 -120, but that was more about the number. Or was it? BetMGM’s Jason Scott said they immediately took $50K on the Chiefs -3.5 and $150K on the Chiefs money-line at -180. 

Or maybe it’s just the “what we saw last” type of betting. The Chiefs are back covering after going 1-8 ATS in their previous nine games, one of which was a Week 12 game at Tampa Bay they won 27-24 but didn’t cover -3.5. The Bucs have not lost since that meeting. Now it’s 3.5 again when we know so much more about what Brady and Bucs are about?  

Where will the line go, up or down?

William Hill’s Nick Bogdanovich, who is booking his 29th Super Bowl, says it will stay -3 or -3.5 the entire next two weeks. Station Casinos sportsbook director Jason McCormick is hoping for something different.

“I was praying for two-way action at 3.5 but I expect to see Bucs money take it down,” McCormick said.

And then how long do you stay at 3, the most key number in the NFL, before jumping down to 2.5? The books don’t want to push on 3, but they also don’t want to get middled. A Black Sunday happened after the 1978 season with the Steelers and Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII (veteran bookmaker Jimmy Vaccaro booked it). Only a handful of books existed in Nevada back then and they took low limits compared to the monster bets these books are taking today. A Black Sunday in 2021 would be devastating.  

I believe the number will drop below 3 and it’ll happen in this first week of action because no book wants middle exposure. Better to get there now than later. Ideally, staying on 3 would be better than crossing over to 2.5 but I think having a 43-year-old Tom Brady making his 10th Super Bowl is the type of thing that the public loves betting on in big games and they don’t care what the number is. 

Brady just played in his 14th conference championship game and comes off seven straight wins while scoring 30-points or more in their last six. He won all three playoff games on the road, giving the Bucs some serious momentum heading into gameday at Tampa. Yes, the game is at Raymond James Stadium, the first team ever to play a Super Bowl on their home field. 

My advice shortly after the number was posted Sunday is to take the Bucs +3.5 and money-line sooner than later if you like them and if you like the Chiefs wait for -2.5.

But SuperBook VP Jay Kornegay has a completely different opinion from mine on how it will go.

“The public rules the Super Bowl line,” he said. “I say it’s pushed up to -4 maybe even -4.5 but not until Super Bowl weekend. I think early support will be on Tampa Bay but goes the other way once the public gets a hold of it.”

I think Kornegay is just hoping he doesn’t have to deal with a possible middle situation down the line over the next two weeks. But differing opinions this far out is what is great about the Super Bowl and it’s part of what most sportsbook crews talk about before posting a number in the biggest game of the year. 

What I agree with Kornegay on is that sharp money doesn’t matter as much as the regular season and gets lost in all the public money piling up.

There were mixed results on Championship Sunday with the majority of books doing well, while others had trouble with the Buccaneers and Chiefs futures. Remember when the Bucs were 20-1 to win the NFC before Brady signed on March 19 with Tampa and were 40-1 to win the Super Bowl and adjusted to 14-1?

“The Bucs winning was big for us,” Stoneback said of the Bucs 31-26 win. “All the large wagers were on the Packers, but we have large liability on the Bucs to win the NFC and Super Bowl.”

The Chiefs have been favorites to win it all most of the season, but risk still piles up when the masses bet them.

“We’re in a bad spot with the Chiefs, a lose-lose spot,” Stoneback said after halftime when the Chiefs were up 21-12. “We lose to the game despite taking four six-figure bets on the Bills taking the points because we took a couple of large bets on Chiefs money-line (-160), one of which was $800,000 to win $500,000. And then we also have large liability on the Chiefs to win the AFC.” 

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