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As the COVID-19 pandemic closes in on taking a full lap around the sports calendar, the Super Bowl is the last major event to feel the coronavirus pinch.

You don’t have to tell Brad Rhines that to make him aware.

The executive vice president and chief strategic officer for Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in greater Des Moines, Iowa, has regional interest for the big game for the second straight year, with the favored Kansas City Chiefs involved. The Plains almost scored a Midwest double with the Green Bay Packers, too.

And yet…

“The Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event we have in this country. Not being able to make a showcase of it and do unique things with it (this year) is disappointing,” Rhines told Gaming Today. “But it fuels us for the future, and it’s wonderful to have regional ties with a team as good as the Chiefs, and what maybe offsets some of the in-person disappointments is that the general interest and fervor for this game is very, very high.”

Indeed, the name cache Tom Brady brings to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has elevated Sunday’s clash into likely unprecedented betting territory on its own. Add in the expansion of sports wagering across nearly half of U.S. states, and the conclusion almost speaks for itself.

“Often it doesn’t matter who plays in the game, but if you do have two popular teams, it makes the game even bigger. I can just feel that this year will be a huge betting game for the overall masses,” DraftKings sportsbook director Johnny Avello said. “I almost know already this will be our biggest Super Bowl. Even with jurisdictions who were on board last year, we’ve seen more betting in those jurisdictions, along with the new states we’ve added.”

Iowa was a live betting market for last year’s Super Bowl between Kansas City and the San Francisco 49ers, so the hoopla isn’t new for folks in Rhines’ position. But a national betting line sticking around a field goal in the Chiefs’ favor does open up the possibility for another net loss for Midwest books, which continue to see a heavy volume of wagers toward Kansas City. 

The game’s result — a 31-20 Chiefs victory that easily covered enhanced spread lines — was a large contributor to why February 2020 has been the lowest-revenue month statewide for books since Iowa went live in August 2019. (April, May, and June of 2020 were excluded from this comparison because of the virtual shutdown of North American sports during the first throes of the pandemic.)

Add in the lack of public hoopla available for casinos such as Prairie Meadows in social distancing conditions, and it’s just another bad hand to be dealt with until normalcy can return. The game will be on and the sportsbook will serve its normal amount of reduced-capacity customers, but there won’t be a public blowout for the book to handle. 

To that end, the casino is planning indoor and outdoor celebration models for the coming NCAA Tournament in March but will release those based on what vaccine progress will allow at the time.

“We’re prepared, and we’re excited,” Rhines said. “We’re cautiously optimistic that something (more special) can happen.”

Kansas City 34, Tampa Bay 27

About the Author
Danny Lawhon

Danny Lawhon

Danny Lawhon is based in West Des Moines, Iowa, and has maintained a diverse sports journalism career for more than a decade, including with the Des Moines Register. A native of northwest Missouri, Danny earns his betting money as a professional musician.

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