You’ve often heard the narrative of sports books “needing” one side or the other. Hell, companies like Don Best and Sports Insights have largely built their business model on playing to the hands of the publics desire to be “on the side of the house” or “play contrarian.” After all, the house always wins, and the misguided notion that professional bettors and groups subscribe to that theory exclusively has exploded with the induction of sports handicapping into the main stream media.
If you were to turn on any podcast or read any sports handicapping content during some of the biggest notable sports events of the last few years including Mayweather Vs. McGregor, Super Bowl 52, or Super Bowl 53, you’ve likely heard the same played out joke, “The lights will turn off if X happens or if X wins.
Last season, The narrative floated by on air personalities was that once again, casino’s will go broke if The Eagles were to win on the money line, as the publics desire to bet a little to win a lot has come out in droves for the big payout of the likable Super Bowl underdogs from Philadelphia. Well, sports books in Las Vegas “lost” on last years Super Bowl. The thing you have to remember is at this time last year Las Vegas was still the only place where you could wager-legally-in person, which means it was the only place it was tracked.
That narrative largely went un-talked about leading up to this years Super Bowl, but once again the same situation presented itself with New England receiving over 75% of tickets and even a higher percentage of money. On air personalities and contrarian based companies were once again in the familiar position of being able to explain how the correct side was obviously to be with Las Vegas in likely the biggest decision of the sporting year.
They always seem to forget a few key pieces of information when distributing this to the general public, however. You see, this was the first year outside of Las Vegas where you could, ahem, legally bet on The Super Bowl, which means it was the first year it was going to be tracked thanks to a little thing called a Gaming Commission. The thing is, Las Vegas had a head start to build something called their “hold” or handle because of a little thing called futures. Companies like Draft Kings or sports books in recently legalized states like New Jersey, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Mississippi, came into the game of bookmaking mid season which means they started brand new in the middle of the 2018 NFL season. They had no outstanding bets in the futures market.
For anyone who doesn’t understand what I’m trying to explain here, let me break it down. Every single year while Las Vegas was the only place to wager on sports, the 21-50 year old male tried to make it to Sin City at least once a year for a variety of reasons wether it be the sports gambling, fine dining, shows, golf, or more adult entertainment, and when they did, they usually left placing a wager on their favorite NFL sports team to make it to The Super Bowl. That’s just one aspect, let alone the millions of dollars flooded into the market by professional bettors trying to get ahead and set up initial positions of teams likely to make a deep playoff run.
Like I said before, the public loves to bet a little to win a lot. You couple that with America’s recent love affair with HBO’s Hard Knocks showcasing the back from the dead Cleveland Browns, and you’re creating a whole lot of losing bets. At the end of the season, out of every future bet placed, only one team actually gets to cash said bet for said bettor. Thus, anyone who placed a bet for any amount on anyone beside The New England Patriots, gave their money to sports books in Nevada, which in turn helped them offset any loss occurred during The Super Bowl.
The public couldn’t resist to place bets from any sports book that would accept them with a record $35 million being wagered on The Super Bowl. Frankly, recreational and public bettors were winners on this game in a vacuum, but you need to understand the differences in “money lost” to really fully understand that statement.
New Jersey sports books lost a net of $4.5 million dollars on The New England Patriots recent Super Bowl victory, according to The Division of Gaming Enforcement (Basically New Jersey’s version of Nevada’s Gaming Commission).
Draft Kings took over 300,000 bets on The Super Bowl and ended up losing just over a million dollars. Other less notable companies like Fan Duel, William Hill New Jersey, and more also reported a loss.
When you go across the country though, Nevada sports books across the state reported winning $10.7 million out of the $145.9 million wagered. If you’re asking how that’s possible, given the fact that they had the same type of liability on The New England Patriots, it’s because when people are talking about, “What Vegas needs?” they’re only speaking in terms out two bets-side and total. They’re making two big mistakes by thinking so narrow-mindedly in this situation, one is ignoring the “hold” on the futures market, and the other even bigger, the market of prop bets, which are becoming even more popular then the spread or total bet of the game itself.
The Westgate Super Book in Las Vegas, long thought of as the gold standard in sports books within the state, posted over 300 proposition bets. The South Point, a divine local casino had just over 250 posted, all with their own separate handle, hold, and liabilities. The purpose of this article isn’t to state that everyone needs to follow the Las Vegas / Nevada way of sports books and how they operate, frankly they weren’t given the chance due to when the laws and regulations were repealed, specifically PASPA. The point is to just don’t let yourself read into the narrative that always being on the side of contrarian and the house is what it seems. Yes, from a side and total perspective sports books across the country lost on one specific type of bet. New England Patriots -2.5. They won just about everywhere else.