Nevada Sportsbooks In Good Financial Shape Despite Chiefs Super Bowl Win

by James Murphy in NFL  / February 3, 2020

I did a nightly sports betting radio show in Las Vegas for several years along with frequent appearances in other media. One of the things that always amused me is when local sportsbook managers would come on our show as a guest just to moan about how their establishment ‘got killed’ in a particular week. Some of these guys were regular guests and were good about giving us a straight answer–even when we asked them how their store did financially the past weekend. The funny thing is that a number of other sportsbook managers actually sought us out to come on after the public made a killing just to publicize that fact.

Usually I would add a footnote to their appearance and share some guidance I learned very early in my sports betting career when a longtime Las Vegas sportsbook denizen advised me to ‘never pay attention to a poor mouthing bookie’.

NEVADA SPORTSBOOKS HAVE GOOD DAY DESPITE CHIEFS WIN

You won’t be hearing any poor mouthing bookmakers in the Silver State following Super Bowl LIV despite the comeback victory by the favored Kansas City Chiefs. Official data will be forthcoming from Nevada Gaming regulators within the next 24-48 hours but anecdotal reports suggest that most sportsbooks finished well ‘in the black’. There are more questions about the handle–as we discussed in the lead up to Super Bowl LIV the betting patterns on the side were a bit erratic and especially early in the betting process. Then again, sportsbook traffic always increases as the game gets closer. Most indications were that the total drew heavy action from the public early and heavier action from ‘sharps’ late. The side saw fairly one sided action on Kansas City early but that evened out closer to game time with plenty of San Francisco money showing late in the betting cycle. Sportsbooks were boosted by several big bets on the Niners that obviously didn’t cash.

Reports from most books also indicate that moneyline betting was robust which was a concern of some analysts heading into the run up to the Super Bowl. Typically, the moneyline draws more public action when there is a decisive underdog. In previous Super Bowls, the moneyline action has languished when the game line was near ‘pick’em’ but that wasn’t the case this time. The moneyline remained an attractive option for San Francisco backers even at a price that didn’t offer a big plus money takeback.

The biggest growth area in Super Bowl betting over the past decade has been in-running or ‘live betting’. The outcome here remains to be seen but in theory a fairly close game (Super Bowl LIV was tied at the half) produces good ‘public’ action for live betting though the relatively low scoring pace of the contest works the other way. The game was certainly entertaining and ultimately that is the biggest determinate of casual bettors staying interested or ‘checking out’ as was the case in the 2019 snoozefest between the Patriots and Rams.

PROPS, TOTAL BOOSTS SPORTSBOOKS BOTTOM LINE

Most reports indicate that bookmakers had decent two way action on the side for Super Bowl LIV and they avoided what was likely their ‘worst case scenario’ of a Chiefs win that went ‘Over’ the total. The ‘Over’ had been the most heavily bet position of the game by the public in the early going. After opening at 51.5 or 52 it shot up to 55 or 55.5 (higher in some outlier sportsbooks) after receiving over 80% of early action. By the middle of last week, however, it started to recede after ‘smart money’ started showing after it hit 55. In the hours before the game, the total continued to drop with 53 or 53.5 being the most common number. A few sportsbooks including Circa Sports in downtown Las Vegas went as low as 52.5. The most popular public parlay involved Chiefs/Over so the ‘Under’ killed off that potential liability.

For the most part, the props also worked in the books favor despite a couple of heavily bet public positions cashing. Patrick Mahomes scored the first touchdown of the game at a price as high as +2800. Books were happy to see him win the game MVP however–he was a short favorite all along and that was a very favorable result for their bottom line. Sportsbooks also took a hit on the ‘San Francisco first TD scorer’ with Kyle Juszczyk cashing as part of the “field” at + 1800.

Other props of note: ‘sharps’ love betting the ‘No Safety’ and ‘No OT’ props–despite laying heavy juice (-1400 and -2000 respectively) both positions are statistically advantageous. Both ‘No’ props cashed which is generally good for the house as the public loves to bet the big dog prices for ‘Yes’. Most of the performance props for key players went ‘Under’ including passing yardage for Jimmy Garoppolo and Patrick Mahomes, Raheem Mostert rushing yards and George Kittle passing yards.

The Mahomes rushing yardage prop handed some bettors a tough beat. The ‘Over’ attracted plenty of action opening at 27.5 and going as high as 36.5. Mahomes entered the final KC possession with 44 yards but he kneeled on three straight plays to end the game. The result? A loss of 15 total yards rushing which dropped his total to 29. Bettors that took the good price early in the cycle sweated out a narrow ‘Over’ but latecomers suffered what had to be a tough beat. Bad news for the bettors was good news for the books as some shops reported a six figure swing on this prop alone.

Once the Nevada Gaming Control Board releases their official numbers we’ll take a look at them and how they compare to the handle and hold from previous seasons.

James Murphy

James Murphy is a preeminent authority on the international gambling industry and has made frequent appearances in the mainstream media including the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Forbes, Entertainment Weekly, CNBC and NPR. He has previously worked as a radio and podcasting host where he broadcast to an international audience that depended on his expertise and advice. Murphy also serves as an odds making consultant for sports and ‘non-sport novelty bets’ covering the entertainment industry, politics, technology, financial markets and just about everything else.

As seen on