Sportsbook operators expect a Las Vegas Super Bowl to smash records
Nevada sports betting operators were certain the 2023 Super Bowl in Phoenix — a marquee matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs — would smash the game’s wagering record.
But sportsbooks fell almost $27 million below that prior mark — $179.8 million wagered in 2022 on the Los Angeles Rams 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals — after tallying up the wagers placed on the Chiefs’ 38-35 win last year.
With Sunday’s Super Bowl LVIII taking place at Allegiant Stadium — the first time the NFL championship game has been played in Las Vegas — sportsbook operators once again predict betting on the game will hit a record total, possibly cracking the $200 million mark.
What makes the game between the Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers different from a year ago?
“It’s the vibe. You can feel the energy,” said Jason McCormick, who oversees Red Rock Resorts’ STN Sports wagering business. “Everyone in Vegas is aware the Super Bowl is taking place.”
During the week between the NFC and AFC championship games, which determined the Super Bowl participants, he said wagering was up 35 percent compared with the same time last year.
The weeklong run-up to the game saw large crowds flock to Mandalay Bay, which has been the de facto host resort for pre-Super Bowl LVIII activity. Other Strip and downtown casinos have gotten in on the action with various events. McCormick said interest has also carried into the Las Vegas locals casino markets.
With more than 500 proposition wagers and expanded in-game wagering, McCormick said Nevada casinos could take in $250 million or more in bets on the Super Bowl, primarily because the game is in Las Vegas.
Ken Fuchs, chief operating officer for Caesars Entertainment’s sports betting and digital gaming division, also believes Super Bowl LVIII will smash previous betting totals.
“It will break records,” Fuchs said Thursday. “The amount of visitation for any Super Bowl is gigantic. We’re the epicenter for being able to watch it. It’s an entertainment event and there is no better city to be the host. Whether you’re going to the game or just being here to be in that type of environment, it will show up in our sports betting.”
Caesars operates the William Hill sports betting business that is in more than 100 Nevada gaming properties. The company also has eight Strip resorts with Caesars Sportsbook branded facilities, including the sportsbook at Caesars Palace. Before 2018, When Nevada was the only state with legal sports betting, national television crews would congregate at Caesars Palace to report on the game’s betting odds.
“You can feel the energy walking through the casino and going into the sportsbook,” Fuchs said.
Circa Casino Resort CEO Derek Stevens said the Strip’s Super Bowl-centric atmosphere was being replicated downtown.
Part of the Circa conference center served as a location for podcasters who were shut out from Radio Row at Mandalay Bay because the NFL ran out of space. Circa Swim, the property’s pool area, hosted sportscaster Dan LeBatard’s national talk show.
Like his counterparts, Stevens said he expects record wagering on the game, given the matchup and Allegiant Stadium as the location.
A bonus for Circa is the company’s sportsbook at Legends Bay Casino in Sparks. With the 49ers playing, Stevens expects a large following from the Bay Area — where sports betting isn’t legal — to travel to Northern Nevada casinos to watch and bet on the game.
Bob Scucci, who oversees Boyd Gaming’s sports betting, said the heightened interest in Las Vegas should translate into a record wagering total. Boyd has three casinos downtown and five in the locals market.
“The town is going to have more people and we expect to see more people at our properties than a normal Super Bowl,” Scucci said. “I expect that to translate into more betting action.”
There are some doubters
Gaming analysts have been hesitant to make glowing predictions about Super Bowl wagering, despite Las Vegas hosting the game. Last year’s Super Bowl in Arizona marked the first time the game was played in a state that offered legal sports betting. Next year’s game is in New Orleans, where sports betting also is legal.
Chris Krafcik, who analyzes sports betting for Southern California advisory firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, estimated that $1.25 billion would be wagered legally on the game in 38 states and Washington, D.C.
He said Super Bowl betting accounts for nearly 1 percent of the nation’s annual overall sports wagering figure, which stood at more than $106.8 billion through November for 2023, according to the American Gaming Association (AGA).
Krafcik said he expects Nevada sportsbooks to generate $160 million in wagers on the game, almost 13 percent of the nationwide figure and the largest of any state “given its host-state status.” He expects New York sportsbooks to have the second-highest total at $155 million.
“For sports betting operators, making money is not necessarily the core aim of the game,” Krafick wrote. He said sports betting companies view the Super Bowl as the single-largest opportunity to “acquire new customers” for the next NFL season.
As of Friday, the 49ers were favored anywhere from 1.5 to 2 points to beat the Chiefs. The teams' combined score was 47.5 points.
Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Chad Beynon estimated the game would draw $1.5 billion in wagers nationally, but didn’t break out Nevada’s total. He said roughly 65 percent of bettors earlier this week favored the Chiefs to either cover the point spread or win outright, meaning it would be a bad afternoon for the sportsbooks.
Notable operators are missing
Two of the nation’s largest sports betting operators, DraftKings and FanDuel, maintained a presence during Super Bowl week, even though the companies can’t accept sports wagers because they are not licensed. Nevada gaming regulations require customers to register for mobile accounts in person at a casino with a licensed operator. The majority of other states allow online registration.
Both companies were part of Radio Row inside Mandalay Bay with studios for their podcasts and streaming channels.
“It’s not the first time the Super Bowl has taken place in a state that DraftKings hasn’t been able to offer bets in, but we’ve still had a presence,” DraftKings spokesman Stephen Miraglia said in an email.
FanDuel spokesman Chris Jones said the company will host a Super Bowl party in Las Vegas, although its customers will not be able to place wagers with its app.
High-profile newcomers on the scene — Fanatics Sports and ESPN Bet — were faced with the same restriction.
Fanatics, which launched sports betting last year, was encouraging customers traveling to Las Vegas for the game, to place their wagers ahead of time.
Krafcik said that because of Nevada’s policy restrictions on customer sign ups and its “modest” market size, “the Silver State is simply not a must-have for FanDuel, DraftKings and other online operators.”
However, Nevada’s in-person registration policy doesn’t sit well with Las Vegas-based gaming industry adviser Brendan Bussmann. He suggested the state is hurting its reputation through the process.
“Las Vegas may be the sports and entertainment capital of the world but we will be leaving dollars at the border at kickoff,” Bussmann said of the Super Bowl. “When bettors go to their phones and one of their favorite brands is blocked, that’s a missed opportunity for revenue.”
Cracking down on the illegal market
Most gamblers are still wagering with an illegal bookmaker or an unregulated off-shore sports betting company.
The AGA estimated that some 67.8 million American adults — 35 percent more than a year ago — will wager more than $23 billion on the game. However, only 11 percent said the bets would be placed with a state-licensed retail sportsbook or online provider, according to Washington, D.C., research firm Morning Consult, which handled the survey.
Given that 38 states and Washington, D.C. — five more states than in 2022 — have legalized sports betting, AGA CEO Bill Miller said the gaming industry’s trade organization still has work to do in educating sports bettors to migrate away from the unregulated market.
Joined by former NFL running back Mark Ingram II, a host on “Fox Sports Big Noon Kickoff,” television show, Miller spent two days on Radio Row talking about the benefits of regulated sports betting with almost two dozen talk shows and podcasts.
One of the AGA’s initiatives is to convince the media not to utilize betting odds provided by offshore operators. During the week, many national broadcasts, including NBC’s “Today,” cited offshore odds on wagers involving singer Taylor Swift and her boyfriend, Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce, such as whether he would propose to her after the game.
“Fortunately in Nevada, we have certain regulations that prevent some of those extravagant wagers,” Scucci said. “I’ve seen some of these offshore wagers about how many times the camera will pan to her. You can’t have that in Nevada.”
STN Sports is offering a proposition bet approved by Nevada gaming regulators on whether Kelce will have more or fewer receptions in the Super Bowl than Swift’s total number of platinum albums, which stands at 10. The wager was approved because it's tied to action on the football field.