Super Bowl gamblers are betting heads, not necessarily with their heads.
“Bettors favor heads so much that some sports books are actually making it cheaper to bet tails in an effort to take even action,” according to RJ Bell, who runs betting information website Pregame.com.
Such is the frenzy surrounding Super Bowl wagering, where betting by recreational gamblers dwarfs professionals. They are investing in any and every possible outcome tied to the most-watched U.S. television event. Bookmakers, however, are usually the big winners.
The New England Patriots are a consensus one-point favorite at Nevada sports books to keep the Seattle Seahawks from successfully defending their National Football League title when the teams square off today at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Sports books move betting lines in an effort to generally take the same amount on both sides of a bet, making money from the fees they charge to place the wagers. They’ve profited during 22 of the last 24 Super Bowls, due in part to the growth of casino-friendly proposition bets -- hundreds of them -- which begin even before the game kicks off and run through the champion coach’s probable Gatorade bath. Most of these bets are not directly tied to the result of the game.
In 48 earlier Super Bowls, the coin tossed to determine which team gets the ball first has landed exactly half the time on heads and half on tails. Heads came up five years in a row until last year, when tails broke the streak.
Gamblers also can wager on whether Idina Menzel will take over or under 2 minutes, 1 second to sing the national anthem before kickoff.
As for the game, New England quarterback Tom Brady has the best odds to be named Most Valuable Player. A $100 bet on Brady to win his third Super Bowl MVP Award will pay $180 plus the original wager. That same bet on Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson would net $350.
Other props being offered include whether New England coach Bill Belichick will smile on camera during the game, whether commentator Al Michaels will refer to the gambling odds during the telecast and what hair color Katy Perry will have for her halftime show.
“I’ve never been betted on before,” Perry said at a news conference this week. “I feel like, ‘Wow, nobody has ever invested in me this much.’ This is exciting.”
The New York Giants’ 2008 Super Bowl win over New England was the last time Nevada casinos lost money on the game, after New York won the title as a 12-point underdog. With 24 years of data available, the only other time casinos lost on the championship was during the 1995 game between the San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers, according to Nevada-based Pregame.com.
Nevada casinos took in a record $119.4 million in bets for last year’s Super Bowl as the Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos 43-8. The American Gaming Association estimates that $3.8 billion will be wagered illegally on the game in the U.S. Prop bets, such as whether “deflated” balls will be mentioned more or less than three times in the NBC broadcast, will probably make Las Vegas the big winner.
“At some sports books, prop bets are now upwards of 50 percent,” Bell said, noting how much casinos pull in from fees associated with such wagers. “Those bets are so heavy with juice, that it’s going to almost be impossible for the books to lose them in aggregate.’
Bettors, however, aren’t buying into Deflategate.
‘‘The deflated football controversy has had no effect on the betting market,” Bell said.
The game comes two weeks after a conference-championship round that turned the Patriots into Super Bowl favorites, while sullying their reputation after being accused of letting air out of their footballs before the game -- perhaps aiding their offense. They beat the Indianapolis Colts 45-7, while Seahawks barely survived the Green Bay Packers, winning 28-22 in overtime after erasing a 16-point halftime deficit.
The NFL has said the footballs will be handled differently during the Super Bowl, though New England remains the popular pick among what will be 90 percent recreational gamblers, the highest percentage for any sports event, according to Pregame.com. Before the conference title games, the Seahawks were 2 1/2-point favorites for a possible matchup with New England at many sports books.
“Just based on the power ranking of the pro bettors I’m talking to, Seattle is the better team and getting points, that seems like the opportunity for a bet,” Bell said.