Nevada Sports Books took in nearly $146 million in bets for the last Super Bowl, their second-best Super Sunday in history. The increase came the year after sports betting was legalized in many states, giving an extra push to the biggest betting day in the world. This year, the total could be even higher, but the amount bet legally will be a mere drop in the very large bucket of illegal betting, with an estimated $13 billion bet illicitly on Super Bowl Sunday alone.
More than half the U.S. adult population will have a wager on this year’s game, according to estimates, and those bets will be made via U.S. and offshore bookmakers, Internet wagers, office pools, person-to-person bets and Super Bowl parties, making it the year’s single biggest sports betting event. There is no close second or third to the Super Bowl, the main reason it is the highest-rated TV show every year.
On May 14, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized sports betting for any state that wants it. Today, 13 states allow sports betting and it’s estimated that within three years that number could swell to as many as 30 states. New Jersey took its first legal sports bet on June 14, 2018, when two retail sports books opened in the state. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement reported a mammoth $5.21 billion had been legally wagered on sports in the state between June 2018 and November 2019, with $4 billion bet in the first 11 months of 2019 alone.
A whopping 80 percent of these sports bets are being made on smart phones and mobile devices, rather than at a casino or horse track. You physically have to be in New Jersey to make a bet there. So what’s the most popular place in Jersey to bet on sports? The New York/New Jersey border. The trend for many sports bettors has been to place a bet on their mobile device in New Jersey, then leave for home in New York.
Across the country, in the conservative Deep South, the MGM-owned Beau Rivage Hotel and Casino Sports Book in Biloxi, Mississippi took the first sports bet in the state of Mississippi on August 1, 2018 with seven betting windows. They are doing so well that they just completed a new $10 million sports book on August 1, one of the nicest in the country. If you make sports betting available, sports bettors will come.
Morgan Stanley recently predicted that $216 billion could be legally wagered annually on sports in the U.S. within five years. By comparison, North American movie box office sales last year were $11 billion. Maybe they should have brought back E.T.
Whether it’s legal or illegal, whether it’s wagered in a fancy casino or on your smart phone, one thing will remain constant: the Super Bowl will remain the biggest betting day in sports. I have five steadfast rules for betting on the Super Bowl, two of which have helped me correctly predict 17 of the last 18 winners against the spread and 15 of the last 18 Over/Under totals. If you plan on placing a bet on Super Bowl LIV, follow these guidelines.
Rule No. 1: Don’t Dread The Spread
The Super Bowl victor has failed to beat the spread only six times in history. That’s a record of 44-6-3 (88 percent). A 57 percent success rate against the spread is very profitable. Ignore the point spread and simply wager on who you think will win the game. Last year, New England was a 2.5 point favorite, and they beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3. The season before, Philadelphia—a 4.5-point underdog—upset New England 41-33. In 2017, the Patriots beat Atlanta 34-28 as 3-point favorites. To find the last team to win the Super Bowl and not beat the spread, you have to go back 11 years, to 2009, when Pittsburgh (giving up 7) beat Arizona 27-23.
Rule No. 2: Take Care With the Total
Total points wagering (the combined score) has become the second-most popular Super Bowl wager. But there’s a simple strategy to point your way with this kind of bet. When offensively potent teams meet, bet the Under, as they tend to play conservatively, feeling they can score whenever they want. Also, many offensive juggernauts only open up after they’ve felt each other out for a half. Last year’s total opened at an all-time high 59 points (closing at game time at 56) for the meeting between the Patriots and Rams, the two top-scoring teams in the league.
Despite their offensive power, the final combined score was a mere 16 points (13-3), putting them well under the total. When Peyton Manning met Cam Newton in 2016, those notorious high scorers fell under the total of 43.5, going 24-10. The same held true when Tom Brady faced Eli Manning in 2012. The Over was set at 54, which was the third-highest Super Bowl total at that time. But the Patriots and Giants combined for only 38 points, again going under the total, as New York won 21-17, beating New England for the second time in five years.
Conversely, if two defensive giants collide, bet the Over because the offenses tend to open up, figuring that any scoring will help their defense and they are less fearful of making mistakes. When these offenses open up, they are more prone to turnovers, which often leads to more scoring. In 2018, Philadelphia and New England, which had dominated their opponents defensively in the playoffs, scored a combined 74 points (41-33), easily beating the 49-point Over.
In 2017, New England beat Atlanta 34-28 for a combined 62 points. The Over, set at 57, paid off that day. The Seahawks had the best defense in the NFL in the 2014 season, a unit known as the Legion of Boom. When they faced off with New England in Super Bowl XLIX, the game was a high-scoring one. The Pats won 28-24, and so did those who bet the Over.
If you see a Super Bowl in which one team is known for its offense and the other team for its defense, pass on wagering on the total and attack the food and drink instead.
Rule No. 3: A Bad Proposition
Never make a proposition bet. Sports books may offer up to 500 of them, allowing you to place a wager on quarterback completions, the number of player receiving and rushing yards, fumbles, field goals and a host of other possibilities. The public bets heavily on this—and loses heavily—almost every year. How skewed is this toward the house? One of the biggest sports books in Vegas said before the 2018 Super Bowl that it had not lost money booking prop bets in 23 years, going back to January 29, 1995 when the San Francisco 49ers beat the San Diego Chargers 49-26 in the highest-
scoring Super Bowl ever.
The sports books did lose on prop bets in 2018, when the Eagles beat the Patriots 41-33, a Super Bowl that shattered several offensive records. That sports books lost on prop bets only twice in the last 24 years should be all the evidence you need to stay away. Prop bets can be hazardous to one’s wealth!
Rule No. 4: Respect The Original Line
At halftime, bookies post a new point spread for the second half of the game. If you’re going to bet again, always bet the team at halftime that you think will beat the original Super Bowl line. The team that has beaten the game’s opening point spread has also beaten the halftime spread in 23 of the last 26 Super Bowls.
Rule No. 5: Don’t Be A Tease
Avoid teasers. They might look good, but your chances of betting them and making money aren’t good at all. A teaser is to entice, or “tease” a bettor where he can move, or tease, the line up or down. Say the Ravens and the 49ers face each other in the Super Bowl, and Baltimore is a 6-point-favorite over San Francisco and the Total is 55. With the teaser, the bettor can take Baltimore even, with the Under 49, or take San Fran +12. But don’t be fooled—it’s not worth the risk.
The same advice holds true for parlays (bets that depend on winning two or more outcomes, say the spread and the Over-Under). More than one third of a bookmaker’s profits come from parlays, so you need to steer clear. This is one Super Bowl bet you should consistently avoid.