Super Bowl Betting: Dumb, Smart, Sets a Record

When you have something big like a Super Bowl (or as my legal team at PTP calls it "The Big Game") it attracts many observers: The casuals, the experts, the every day football watchers, the fantasy players, the drinkers, the partiers, and the folks who need something to watch after Puppy Bowl.

What many of those observers do, is bet.

Yesterday, Nevada took in $119 million on the big game, a record. In 1991, when (sorry Gene-o) Scott Norwood's kick went wide right, $40 million was bet.  That's almost a triple in 20 years.

Overall, in a given year, Nevada takes in $3.62 billion in bets, with a rake of 5.6%.

This year the books made out like bandits. I read the numbers geeks, and the numbers geeks loved Seattle. They were coming in 100% healthy, they shut down all-world offenses like New Orleans, not once but twice, and they had a serviceable running game.  The crowd (full disclosure, I did not bet the game, but thought the Broncos would win, so I'm the crowd I guess) loves the flash of a good offensive teams with big names. Their money flooded the Broncos.

If you were a cold hard numbers geek, there was value. You could make that punt with some verve.

Horse racing does not have that dumb money quotient too often anymore. There's enough smart money to hammer an underbet down, allowing the odds board to settle at somewhere near fair, with rebate.

"Dumb" money allows for a 16.5% book hold that happened yesterday and that's pretty amazing.

It's fascinating that one game can generate so much volume. If you are saying "Pocket, that's $119 million..... horse racing does a lot more than that" you would be right, but you are fishing in the wrong pond. With illegal betting, magic squares and a hundred other Super Bowl betting avenues, legal Las Vegas betting volume is said to be 1% of the nationwide total. The game did more like $12 billion yesterday, or more than is bet on 46,000 races last year in horse racing.

You'll often see other jurisdictions like Hong Kong worry constantly about pool size and adding new bets. The hope is to keep racing popular enough where there is a big enough dumb money quotient to make it attractive. Just like the Super Bowl.

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