SBJ/20090126/Super Bowl XLIII
Want to bet? You’re not alone
Published January 26, 2009
A representative of the NFL has flipped a coin 42 times before the start of the Super Bowl, and 22 times it has come up tails. Based on that statistic, gamblers will lay down millions of dollars this week that Sunday’s coin toss will be heads.
“It seems kind of crazy that people would bet on that,” said Richard Gardner, manager of the online sports book at Bodog. “That just reflects how it goes for the Super Bowl. You can bet on anything.”
Gambling historians trace the popularity of so-called proposition bets to Super Bowl XX, when Chicago rookie defensive tackle William “Refrigerator” Perry pounded the ball and his 300-plus-pound frame into the end zone. Prompted by the pregame assertion of Bears coach Mike Ditka that Perry would not run the ball, casinos posted 20-1 odds that the Fridge would score, attracting so much action that they eventually had to move the line closer to even money.
Casinos lost big that day, and gamblers’ interest in prop bets exploded.
Over the last two decades, prop betting has become just as popular as betting on the Super Bowl winner. Side bets can account for up to 10 percent of the daily handle at Bodog, but that can swell to 50 percent or more of all bets made on the Super Bowl.
“Each year, the menu seems to expand based on demand from our guests and wagering public,” said Jason McCormick, director of race and sports at Red Rock’s casino in Las Vegas. His casino had nine pages of prop bets for last year’s game. “They’re looking for action on every play.”
Las Vegas casinos, which are regulated by a gaming commission and therefore cannot offer lines on bets that are easily influenced, feature competition-based props, like guessing the Super Bowl MVP, first player to score a touchdown or which team will score last. They also offer bettors the chance to parlay statistics and results of an NBA game on Super Bowl Sunday with the football game.
“We’ll probably do something with LeBron James and his total points and assists with a player that’s in the football game,” McCormick said.
The wackier wagers are usually found online, where sports books are not regulated as strictly as Las Vegas casinos, so they can offer dozens of other bets, like guessing the newspaper headline in the winning market, or whether or not a streaker will sprint across the field.
Bodog offered nearly 300 such props for the 2008 game and expects to have more this year. BetOnline.com offered more than 500 scenarios last year.
In recent years, online sports books have allowed gamblers to bet the over/under on the number of times announcers would mention Peyton Manning even when he wasn’t playing in the game, what color Gatorade would be dumped on the winning coach, or what songs would be performed at halftime.
Care to wager the over/under on the length of national anthem, to be sung by Jennifer Hudson this year? Prognosticators were certain Billy Joel would take longer than the 1:44 line set before Super Bowl XLI, but he defied the odds and sang one of the faster renditions in Super Bowl history at 1:30.
Which Super Bowl commercial will have a higher rating on USA Today’s annual Ad Meter? Pepsi ruled the 1990s, but Anheuser-Busch products have won the last 10 years. Stay away from movie trailers.
The ability to craft outlandish prop bets becomes even more impressive when one considers that many wagers are not set until after the Super Bowl participants are determined two weeks before the big game.
Shortly before last year’s game, Red Rock created a Brother vs. Brother bet, pitting the Super Bowl quarterbacking stats of Giants quarterback Eli Manning with those of Indianapolis QB Peyton Manning from the previous year.
Not all of the prop bets are pulled together at the last minute, though. The people at Bodog are already looking forward to the Cowboys’ return to the Super Bowl, especially if Tony Romo and his celebrity girlfriend are still around.
“What color jersey will Jessica Simpson wear?” proposed Gardner, half-jokingly. “Pink would obviously be the favorite.”