Nevada Sportsbooks Report Second Best Ever Super Bowl Handle/Hold

by James Murphy in NFL  / February 5, 2020

The anecdotal reports of Nevada sportsbooks’ Super Bowl LIV performance suggested that it was a very profitable year and now the official numbers are out to validate that. The Nevada Gaming Control Board reported that the Silver State’s 190 sportsbooks took $154.68 million in wagering action on the Kansas City Chiefs’ 31-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. In the process, they made $18.77 million for a hold percentage of 12.1%.

Both the handle and hold for Super Bowl LIV represent the second highest all time result since Nevada began releasing the data for the big game in 1991. The all time handle record was set two years ago when the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII with Nevada books writing $158,586,934 in betting action. The ‘dark cloud’ to that ‘silver lining’ was the hold percentage–statewide Nevada sportsbooks made only $1,170,432 in profit for a 0.7% hold which ranks among the lowest all time.

The most profitable Super Bowl all time took place in 2014 when the Seattle Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. Nevada sportsbooks took $19,673,960 in profit on a handle of $119,400,822 for a 16.50% hold. That year also represented the first time Nevada’s handle exceeded $100 million and it hasn’t dropped below $115 million since.

Reports from representatives of individual sportsbooks suggest that betting on the side was split evenly with bettors backing the Chiefs minus the pointspread and the 49ers on the moneyline. Most of the major props went the books’ way including the Super Bowl MVP–several books indicated that they made a ‘six figure profit’ on that outcome alone due to setting up an advantageous position on favorite Patrick Mahomes. In game wagering was also brisk throughout Nevada.

The big blow that boosted the sportsbooks’ bottom line was the total which stayed ‘Under’ despite heavy public action on the ‘Over’ throughout the betting cycle:

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.

Despite the strong showing of Nevada sportsbooks many other US states inexplicably lost money on Super Bowl LIV. New Jersey lost $4.28 million on an overall handle of $54.3 million. That makes their second straight losing Super Bowl following 2019’s $4.57 million loss on a handle of $34.89 million. Pennsylvania also lost money on Super Bowl LIV ending up $3.3 million in the red on $30.7 million handle. Rhode Island–where sports betting is little more than a ‘gimmick game’ for the state’s lottery–managed to make a profit this year on a minuscule handle of $5.5 million, down from $6.5 million last year. Their hold of $805,000 might not sound like much but works out to 14.6 percent. The moral of the story is that lottery players aren’t particularly good sports bettors.

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.

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