With several states reporting Super Bowl losses, it may be time to allow cross-state pooling of sports bets
If proponents AGAINST legalized sports wagering within each U.S. state wanted their argument, they could utilize recent headlines announcing the take from last Sunday's Super Bowl.
Nevada sportsbooks collected their second highest win total on the game in the last 10 years – nearly $18.8 million – after the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the 49ers, 31-20, in Miami. Augmented by the increasing roster of highly profitable proposition wagers, the Silver State closed out the NFL season with a major celebration.
Good for them, because with sports betting legal in 14 states, Nevada was one of only four states of those having released Super Bowl wagering totals that showed a profit, while the other three were minuscule compared to Nevada. "There are a lot of Niners fans in Northern Nevada and a lot of sports fans drove over for the game from the Bay Area," said William Hill US CEO Joe Asher. That echoes the huge regionality bias that each state faces when focused upon one mammoth singular sporting event to wager upon.
Modest returns from Oregon, Delaware and Rhode Island were in the six-figure range. That was a welcome relief for Rhode Island who suffered a major $2.3M loss last year at the hands of the nearby New England Patriots, who easily defeated the Los Angeles Rams. Surprisingly, most books in Nevada reported they needed the Chiefs and Under the Total to help support their profit potential.
Nevada was no doubt helped when MGM said two customers lost almost $3 million combined, including a $1 million money-line bet on the 49ers by Houston furniture store owner Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale. You may recall, last fall, McIngvale lost millions wagering on the Houston Astros in the World Series. I'm wondering if other states or top offshore sportsbooks might be offering Mack a bonus to bring his publicity-seeking wagers their way for major events in the future.
What Stayed in Vegas
No doubt the money for the house stayed in Vegas, Reno and elsewhere. Many individual bettors throughout the U.S. went to sleep happy last Sunday evening. New states that have recently welcomed licensed and regulated wagering and put an emphasis on online wagering were licking their wounds on Monday morning reporting significant losses.
In New Jersey, the public reportedly beat the casinos and the state for $4.3 million. On average, the house win (or hold) on NFL football is roughly between 5 and 10 percent. This year, the public reversed those expectations, winning about 7.8 percent of the total handle. While the headlines have been boasting New Jersey's claim becoming the #1 sports wagering market over Nevada, these types of numbers have been suppressed to the public and especially the taxpayers that initially voted-in and supported sports betting.
Over in bordering Pennsylvania, the news was theoretically worse. Pennsylvania's casinos and sports books lost $3.3 million on the Super Bowl with a take of $30.6 million according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Since a huge 36 percent of sports wagering revenue is dumped into the general fund, the loss means a significant hit to taxpayers.
"The wagering was much higher this year than before," said Doug Harbach, Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. "The overall with sports wagering, some of these new mini casinos opening up and also the internet gaming that is being done, all of that will add up to more tax revenue for Pennsylvania," he said.
The No-Show, Show-Me State
Thankfully with sports wagering legislation still in the review stages, the "Show Me" state, Missouri, did not have Super Bowl wagering in time for this year’s Big Game. We could only imagine the mega-loss the state (and taxpayers) would have suffered at the hands of fiercely loyal Chiefs fans anxious to bet their how-bout-them Chiefs at any price. The closest destination to wager was likely Iowa, which is a long car trip to plunk down a modest bet of KC support.
Just Who Do We Feel Sorry For?
No doubt the Super Bowl reflected only one bad day and we all have bad days. Overall, states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania will earn a significant windfall over the course of the year from the proliferation of sports betting as it gains momentum. The asterisk here is the discussion coming from this to avoid even having ONE bad day like this happen to any state in the future.
The big headline is also reminding the public that unlike poker, slot machines or table games, the take (profit margin) from legalized sports wagering is traditionally very thin and very risky. Players do win occasionally and when several costs of business are factored in it's not the bucks bonanza to build state roads, fund schools, pay policemen, etc.
The system works best on balanced wagering and simple "dime-line" or -110 principle. If all wagers on all sports could perfectly equate to even betting for each side, there would be no risk for the house similar to the rake in a poker game. That is theoretically impossible and even more strained as each state sets up regionalized restrictions upon wagering with the borders of their own state.
Look for new laws or ways for potential inter-state wagering to be proposed in the future to help eliminate the mega Super Bowl losses that occurred to New Jersey and Pennsylvania last Sunday and Rhode Island the year before. If Powerball or Mega Millions Lottery could exist this way, it is possible to see this happen with some future federal judicial order.
In the meantime, keeping the list of preferred online sportsbooks nearby, eliminates any potential concern for either the player or the house. It also gives each U.S. bettor the opportunity to choose their selected game at a favorable odds advantage by joining more than one sportsbook.
I know it's an incredible longshot, but here's hoping neither the Jets nor Giants make it to the Super Bowl next year. Kinda feel sorry for Jersey taxpayers on how many millions they may lose out on if either team covers.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, including previews and picks from Glenn, click here.