It's impossible to think about the last year in gaming without the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion striking down PASPA, opening the door for states to individually authorize sports betting, immediately coming to mind. So far, bettors in eight states can place legal sports wagers. As operators and investors anxiously seek indicators of market potential, all eyes will be on Super Bowl handle in these jurisdictions, and especially on mobile handle in New Jersey.
2. Proposition Bets
It wouldn't be a Super Bowl without prop bets. 33 years ago, en route to victory over the Patriots, the Chicago Bears brought in their defensive tackle "Refrigerator" Perry (fittingly, also a 'P') to rush for a 1-yard touchdown. A DT scoring a touchdown is interesting, especially one with the size and popularity of "The Fridge," but this was even more noteworthy because that year Las Vegas sports books offered a prop bet on whether Perry would score a touchdown. The public bet the Fridge hard, and sportsbooks erupted when he scored. Despite taking a large loss on that wager, Las Vegas has been offering prop bets ever since. This year, the Westgate Superbook is offering more than 400 - public interest is incredibly high, and the range of available wagers has the potential to make every play matter.
Building on this last point, the NFL is still eager to squeeze operators for an "integrity fee" to cash in on sports betting revenues, despite Nielsen's finding that sports betting would be worth an additional $2.3 billion to the NFL in sponsorship and ad revenues from increased viewership. To hammer the point home, the NFL is now asking Congress to legislate that the leagues decide what types of wagers the books can offer. In particular, the NFL says that prop bets are too risky from a game integrity standpoint, ignoring the fact that proposition bets have existed for more than 30 years and that they make lopsided games vastly more interesting. And limits on prop bets are orders of magnitude lower than limits on sides and totals. For example, some books won't take more than a $500 wager on a prop, which pales in comparison to the $20,000 they'll take on a regular season side or the much larger numbers they'll take on the Super Bowl (at least five bets of $1 million or more were reported last year). The league's position is that it's too easy to rig the outcome of a prop bet without raising red flags, but the total amount of money that one can wager on a prop bet, even across several wagers at several books, is small - so small that it's certainly not worth risking your career, reputation, and multi-million dollar contract over. Some quick math: with around $80M (half of total Super Bowl handle last year in Nevada) wagered on props and more than 400 props to choose from, this averages out to less than $200,000 wagered per prop. We all care about the integrity of sport, and this is doubly true for the casinos who stand to lose a lot if integrity is breached. This push by the NFL is pure posturing and simply an effort to keep integrity fees at the top of legislators' minds.
Click here to read Brian's full commentary, including #4 Pass Interference, #5 Patriots, and some of the wagers he's making this weekend in his expanded section on Proposition Betting.