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The History Of Wagering On The Super Bowl

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Super Bowl TrophyEach year for nearly half a century, one of the top wagering events of the season is the NFL Super Bowl to determine the best pro football team in the league and in the world. No one event in sports tops the Super Bowl in the amount of money wagered on the game known in the industry as the ‘handle’.

For Super Bowl XLVIII the handle is expected to top the $100 Million mark for the first time.  Last year it was $98 Million and change.  In general, Super Bowls have been good for books and bookies. The wagering public almost always goes for the favorite and the over but the games don’t always turn out that way.

There were a few notable exceptions to this and the books got hit big time. In 2008 the Patriots were undefeated going into the Super Bowl against Eli Manning and the New York Giants in yet another cold, cold football game. Just how much money was lost when David Tyree managed to grab that pass against his helmet will never be known but it was a lot. The dog and the under took home the bacon that day.

But that wasn’t the worst.  Back in the 1979 Super Bowl still referred to as ‘Black Sunday’ in Las Vegas, Big Ben and the Steelers opened as 4.5 point favorites playing the Dallas. So much money was wagered on the Cowboys that Nevada oddsmakers dropped the line to Pittsburg -3.5. Bad move. The Steelers won the game 35-31 so the books not only had to pay off the bettors that had the Cowboys at +4.5 but also those who got the Steelers at -3.5 then, there were the folks who got in at 4 and pushed!  Not a good day for bookies.

When the Super Bowl rolls around we start to see every kind of prop bet imaginable showing up on wagering menus. Nevada and International books were offering between 250 and 300 props for Super Bowl XLVIII. And a lot of money is wagered on props for the Super Bowl. You can even wager on the outcome of the coin toss.

Prop bets date back to the late ‘80’s when sports books posted odds of 40-to-1 that William Perry, better known as ‘The Frig’ would score a touchdown during the game. Gamblers bet the prop down to 5-to1 and of course Perry made his touchdown and the books had to pay off but the prop bet was born.

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