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Record handle in sight

Jan 29, 2008 5:42 AM

Is this the year sports books in the Silver State finally top the vaunted $100 million betting mark on the Super Bowl?

After increasing five straight years and setting a new record in 2006 with $94,534,372 wagered on the Big Game, the total handle on last year’s Super Bowl XLI settled in at $93,067,358, some $1.5 million short of the Super Bowl XL mark set a year earlier in the game between the Steelers and the Seahawks.

With an undefeated team that’s been the darling of the league all season in the Patriots and a team from the No. 1 market in the USA in the Giants playing for all the marbles, no one would really be that surprised if the handle did finally top that magical number.

John Avello, Director of Race and Sports Operations at Wynn Las Vegas, thinks a new record is probably in the making.

"I think we can top the $100 million mark because if you notice the sports handle in the state has been pretty much going up the ladder over the last few years," he said.

Avello said the event itself is as much as a draw as the two teams playing in it and that having the 18-0 Patriots in there should only help the handle.

"The handle is going to be there anyway," Avello said. "I think there aren’t any teams that are bigger than the event. But the Patriots in there is an attraction because they are expected to be there."

Avello admitted he was pulling for the Patriots to make the Super Bowl — for obvious financial reasons.

"Absolutely I was pulling for them," he said. "I haven’t seen anybody so far that could beat them. They’ve had a few close calls but those close calls were not when the money was on the line."

Wynn’s head man said that the perception out there that the public is enamored with New England, which covered its first eight games of the season, has ultimately been a good thing for the sports books.

"They haven’t been covering the spread lately," Avello said of the Patriots who are a paltry 1-7 ATS in their last eight games. "Bookmakers aren’t going to hate them too much. They’re an excellent team and they’re well-coached. You may hate them because they win too much but that’s the case for any team that wins too much."

And Avello knows despite New England’s perfect record and their push to make the history books means very little to the upstart Giants.

"Don’t ever underestimate an NFL team in any playoff (game) or Super Bowl," he said.

Since the Nevada Gaming Control Board began compiling information on the Super Bowl handle back in 1991, sports books have lost money on the event only once, dropping $396,674 (-0.6% hold) in 1995 when the 49ers trounced the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX, 49-26, covering the Super Bowl-record high 19-point-line.

The record win-hold for the books in a Super Bowl is 17% which occurred in 2005 when the Patriots and Eagles met in Super Bowl XXXIX and the sports books won $15,430,138.