Ravens-49ers Matchup Sets Super Bowl Betting Record
By Bill Ordine
Super Bowl Sunday was a wonderful day to be a Ravens fan. It was also a profitable one.
The Ravens helped set a Super Bowl wagering record during their 34-31 win against the San Francisco 49ers, with the game attracting $98.9 million in bets in Nevada, according to the state's Gaming Control Board. That topped the previous record of $94.5 million, set during the economic boom times in 2006, when Pittsburgh beat Seattle.
Some sports-wagering experts estimate the Super Bowl betting that takes place in Nevada represents just 1 percent of wagers worldwide, mostly on the Internet.
Baltimore took a chunk out of the bottom line of the sports books in Las Vegas because of its upset, but don't feel too bad for the bookmakers. Nevada's 183 sports books still made about $7.2 million, according to the gaming board's early unaudited figures.
The Ravens went off as 4 ½-point underdogs by kickoff and they seemed a lock to win with the points after Jacoby Jones' kickoff return for a touchdown gave them a 28-6 lead, and even during San Francisco's second-half rally.
That the Ravens would win with the points was good news for the sports books, because betting had been big on the 49ers giving between 3 ½ and 4 ½ points. There was especially strong interest in the game in northern Nevada, because casinos there are an easy drive from the Bay area.
But where the Ravens giveth to the bookmakers, they also taketh away. Baltimore was an attractive plus-160 on the money line, meaning that a $100 bet on the Ravens brought a $160 return if Baltimore won the game outright.
The habit of the betting public is to wager on the favorite and give the points, but to bet on the underdog on the money line. In most cases, the best possible outcome for the bookmakers is for the favorite to win outright, but fail to cover the spread.
"The ideal situation for us was for the 49ers to score that final touchdown," said Jay Rood, who runs the sports- and race-book operations for the MGM Resorts International casinos in Las Vegas, which include the Bellagio, Mirage, MGM Grand and several others. "It was a long day and we squeaked out a profit. We paid the bills and we paid for the [Super Bowl] parties."
At Rood's sports books and across Vegas, the public bet up the 49ers from four-point favorites to 4 ½ points as kickoff approached. Rood estimated that 65-70 percent of his betting tickets on Feb. 3 were written on San Francisco.
But there was something else happening on game day -- a rush of cash backing Baltimore on the money line.
"That Ravens money-line money that came in the last half hour to an hour more than eroded the 49ers' points-line money," Rood said.
So as the Ravens were hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, the sports books were paying those bettors who picked the Ravens to win outright a hefty $160, or, in some cases, $170.
The bookmakers also took a hit on the over-under wagers. The betting public generally prefers the over, because folks just like rooting for scoring, and it's a wager the bettors don't have to sweat once the number is reached. The over-under total on the Super Bowl was 48 at most casinos, and it was settled during the third period, when the 49ers' David Akers kicked a 34-yard field goal to trim Baltimore's lead to five, 28-23.
As soon as the Super Bowl betting results were released Feb. 4, it was being reported that the casinos lost on prop bets, which are all the unusual side bets casinos offer, such as which player will score the first touchdown. And the Ravens did their part in sweeping some money toward the customers on the props.
When Ravens punter Sam Koch took a safety with just seconds left during the game to help preserve the win, the bookmakers winced. The prop bet on a safety was 6-1 at many casinos, and the LVH Casino SuperBook had it at 9-1 early during Super Bowl week.
Fans of Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin were rewarded when he scored the first touchdown. At the LVH SuperBook, the odds on Boldin getting the first touchdown were 9-1, and the odds on him scoring during the first half were plus-340. Jacoby Jones was another prop bet hero for the customers. The LVH odds on Jones scoring a touchdown at all were plus-425. And the defense did its part. Reliable safety Ed Reed's interception paid off at plus-400.
So although Super Bowl Sunday was awash in purple, it also had some Baltimore believers counting the green.
Issue 182: February 2013