The most popular sport to bet on is the NFL, making the Super Bowl one of the most bet on individual events in all of sports each year. This was evident again this past year as the $136 million wagered on Super Bowl LV at Nevada sportsbooks. This number is down from the last few seasons but is actually pretty strong considering the circumstances with Covid-19 keeping tourism to a minimum. The Nevada State Gaming Control Board releases their Super Bowl numbers from 190 sportsbooks across the state around 24 hours after the game, at which point we will update our information.
Below is a table showing the total handle (total amount of all wagers taken in) and profit reported by Nevada sportsbooks on each Super Bowl since 1991.
|YEAR||SUPER BOWL||AMT WAGERED||PROFIT||RETURN||WINNER||LOSER|
Sports books have made out extremely well when it comes to the Super Bowl. A big reason why is that square bettors (those that don’t usually bet) are attracted to the big game and they are prone to making high-risk bets like parlays and props that are unlikely to win. There have been just two cases since 1991 when books have produced a net loss on the Super Bowl (1995 and 2008).
In 1995, the San Francisco 49ers were the biggest favorites in Super Bowl history (18 points), but that didn’t detract bettors from loading up on the obviously better team, as well as the over. The Niners covered and the total went well over the 53.5 mark (San Fran won 49-26, a 23-point victory with 75 points scored).
The 2008 Super Bowl played out much differently. The New England Patriots were 14-point favorites against the New York Giants. For this game the public did something it rarely does – it bet overwhelmingly on the underdog. Not only did the Giants cover the spread, they won the game outright, meaning a disaster for sportsbooks that had to payout moneyline bets on New York at nearly 10-to-1 as well.
Each year there is a new study or estimate by an expert on how much is wagered offshore at online sportsbooks, or with local bookies, or between friends. Some of these estimates include office pools and international wagers taken legally, some do not.
There is no way to know for sure, but the most common educated guess (from the American Gaming Association) says that roughly 97% of all bets placed on the Super Bowl will be made in a technically illegal fashion. Using the latest numbers on the amount of legal action taken in Nevada ($136,096,460), the estimated illegal portion of the handle would come in at $4,536,548,666. (about $4.5 billion). If it follows that the expected return on illegal wagers matches that of legal wagers, using this year’s return of 9.2%, black market wagering accounted for $417,362,477 in profits last year.