Sunday’s Super Bowl will be the first played in the era of widespread legal sports betting, now allowed in eight states.
How much will be bet now that punters can lay down some money on whether the Rams or Patriots will win (and lots of other things surrounding the game)?
It appears the over-under is a little above $300 million, according to sports book watchers.
“We’re setting the line at … $325 million in total bets placed on the game at legal sportsbooks nationwide,” said Dustin Gouker, lead sports betting analyst for PlayUSA.com, which produces news and information on the gaming industry.
1-Million-Plus Americans Expected To Place Legal Bets
It’s the first year Americans will place legal bets on the Super Bowl outside of Las Vegas, where sports betting has been legal for decades. If you are in — or can get to — New Jersey, Delaware, Pennyslvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Mississippi, New Mexico, or, of course, Nevada, there’s at least one legal sports book where you can place a bet in person.
In New Jersey and West Virginia, bettors can even get action through an online app. In all, there are more than 250 legal online and retail sports books in those states.
Nevada is still expected to take in the lions’ share — make that the Patriots and Rams’ share — of the betting, with PlayUSA predicting a Vegas handle of $160 million.
Another $100 million is expected to be bet at legal sports books in New Jersey, followed by about $30 million in Pennsylvania and more than $15 million in Mississippi, with much smaller amounts in the other states.
Experts say about 1 million Americans are likely to place a legal bet on Sunday’s game, in which Tom Brady and the Pats were a 2.5-point favorite over the Rams on Thursday.
Thriving Black Market
But that’s just the legal betting, and it’s a tiny portion of the amount experts say will be plunked down on Super Bowl LIII.
The total handle will likely top $6 billion, much more than what will be bet legally, said Daniel Wallach, co-founding director of University of New Hampshire law school’s Sports Wagering and Integrity Program.
That’s up from the roughly $4.6 billion the American Gaming Association estimates was bet last year.
The newly legal betting in seven more states than last year will likely cause part of that uptick, but only a slight one.
That’s because “95 percent of betting overall still is being done illegally,” Wallach told Benzinga by phone from Atlanta ahead of Sunday’s game.
Wallach thinks the big legal betting payoff will come next year.
He predicts by Super Bowl LIV in 2020, there could be 20 states where sports betting is legal, making wagering above board “in perhaps as much as one-half of the country,” Wallach said.
The handle in 2020 could be above $7 billion, and approaching $10 billion within three years, with much of the increase coming from legal bets.
'There's No One Who Is Neutral On The Patriots'
For investors, it's not clear yet which gaming companies may benefit from more legal sports betting.
Most sports books are opening at casinos and race tracks, and the legalization ruling last year boosted investors' thoughts about Boyd Gaming Corporation BYD, Caesars Entertainment Corporation CZR, and Churchill Downs, Inc. CHDN, among others. Caesars has sports betting at its properties in New Jersey and Mississippi.
According to a survey done by The American Gaming Association, about 10 percent of Americans — more than 20 million — will bet on the Super Bowl, with most of them doing it illegally. It’s unclear how many of those gamblers would rather bet legally through a sports book.
Sports books in Pennsylvania and New Jersey may be happy to be up and running now, but likely missed their biggest chance for a big handle with last year’s Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles.
In this year’s Super Bowl, hometown fans of the Rams and Patriots don’t have a local, legal option, though if the Pats are truly New England’s team, some of their fans will be able to bet close to home in Rhode Island. Sports betting remains illegal in Massachusetts and California.
A compelling story line hooks not just regular fans, but gamblers too, said the University of New Hampshire's Wallach.
“The New England Patriots, love ‘em or hate ‘em, but there’s no one who is neutral on the Patriots and Tom Brady."
And you can bet on that.
Photo credit: Keith Allison, Flickr
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