Low-scoring game a boon for casinos

Updated: February 4, 2004, 4:37 PM ET
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- The Super Bowl was a record-setter in Vegas.

Bettors wagered a record $81.2 million on the New England-Carolina matchup, with Nevada sports books winning a record $12.4 million, state gambling regulators said Wednesday.

The amount bet on Sunday's Super Bowl topped the previous mark of $77.2 million set in 1998, when Denver beat Green Bay, according to figures released by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

"I don't think any of us anticipated that we would set a record," said Robert Walker, oddsmaker for MGM Mirage properties in Las Vegas. "People were in a very good mood ... and they put their money down."

The results from 152 legal sports books in the state underscored postgame comments from Las Vegas oddsmakers, who reported a double-digit increase in business from a year ago.

Sports books won big when the Patriots won 32-29 on a late field goal. Most oddsmakers had the Patriots favored by 7 points and the game's total score at about 38 points, meaning fans could bet whether the total score would be over or under that.

Frank Streshley, a research analyst with the state Gaming Control Board, said he couldn't explain why the handle, or the amount wagered, was higher than a year ago. He said casinos won because people bet the Super Bowl would be a low-scoring game.

The 15.3 percent casino win ratio was less than the 16.3 percent in 2001, when $67.7 million was wagered and the Baltimore Ravens defeated the New York Giants, 34-7. Because the bet total was lower, casinos won $11.2 million that year.

Nevada sports books took $71.6 million in wagers on the Super Bowl a year ago, and reported winning $5.2 million, a ratio of 7.3 percent.

Casinos won just $472,033 in 1998, a ratio of 0.6 percent.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press