Super Bowl affected by online woes

Feb 13, 2007 2:16 AM

Many analysts are scratching their heads over this year’s Super Bowl handle, which failed to set a new record as many observers had predicted.

Bettors wagered $93.1 million on this year’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears, down from the 2006 total of $94.5 million, which featured the Seahawks against the Steelers.

The state’s sports books won $12.9 million, the second most ever, compared to $8.8 million last year. Sports books increased their winning percentage to 13.9 this year from 9.3 last year.

With the sudden collapse of the Internet sports betting industry, many believed legal Nevada sports books would pick up a large percentage of the Super Bowl bets that would have been placed with off-shore books.

But two factors worked against that scenario, according to an official with Pinnacle Sports, which ceased doing business with U.S. customers in January.

The official, who requested his name be withheld, said the funds of many sports bettors were tied-up and unavailable, either with Neteller, a funds processor, or in escrow with off-shore sports shops.

More important, the official said, was the fact that most of the "serious" off-shore bettors seldom place just a single bet.

"These bettors are always looking for ”˜outs,’ that is, more than one line or more than one set of odds on which to bet," he said. "The biggest bettors are always looking to middle a game or to ”˜scalp’ numbers, and they often use a combination of online and Nevada sports books.

"With just one set of numbers available — Nevada sports books — these bettors didn’t have the options they normally had," the official continued. "Thus they mostly just passed the game, which is really just another betting vehicle for them."

In Nevada, most sports books reported brisk betting action that resulted in solid wins across the board.

"A majority of the bets were on Chicago," said John Pinto, sports book director at downtown Reno’s Silver Legacy Resort Casino.

Gamblers bet $540,000 on the Super Bowl at the Legacy, the second highest total ever at the book, behind last year’s $628,900.

"It was a great weekend overall," Pinto said. "The book did pretty good on it."

In Southern Nevada, Station Casinos had a "great" Super Bowl with the sports books cashing in close to a million dollars.

"There was a lot of Chicago and ”˜under’ money," said a Station supervisor. "The ”˜over’ was in a lot of parlays."

That made all of them losers for gamblers.

Although there wasn’t the influx of money from the biggest bettors, most sports books reported a greater number of bets than last year’s Super Bowl.

"The number of tickets was way more than any other Super Bowl," said Terry Cox, sports book manager at Reno’s Peppermill Hotel Casino. Cox added that the betting pattern on this year’s Super Bowl differed from previous games.

Like most sports books, Cox reported increased betting on Super Bowl propositions, such as which player will score the first touchdown, that have become popular on Super Bowl Sunday.

"The wagering on the propositions is higher ever year," Cox said.

Estimates on proposition betting varied from a low of about 10 percent to 15 percent of the Super Bowl total at the Las Vegas Hilton, to as high as 40 percent to 50 percent at other shops.

One of the biggest plays of the day was a miss by Colts place kicker Adam Vinatieri on a field goal try at the end of the first half.

"Vinatieri missing that field goal was huge for the books," said one sports book director, who added it could have been worth $400,000 to the state’s casinos.