The NFL has become the most popular league in American sports in recent years for a variety of reasons. One of the more prominent reasons has been gambling. Games are limited to a few days each week, and with only 16 games per team in the regular season, it makes it a little easier to follow the action and figure out how to wager.
The Super Bowl becomes a huge gambling proposition because it is so easy to wager on the game in a variety of ways. Many will place wagers in Las Vegas or at one of many online sports books. However, contests like "Super Bowl Squares" provide even novices with a chance to wager a few dollars on the big game.
Wagers placed in Las Vegas represent a relatively small percentage of overall Super Bowl gambling, but it remains the place where the line is often first set. Each sports book will set the line as they see fit, but most will often come down pretty close on the final line.
SB Nation had a chance to chat with the man who gets that line set for MGM Resorts. Jay Rood serves as Vice President of Race & Sports and supervises a variety of race and sports books across Nevada, including Aria, MGM Grand, Mirage and the Bellagio.
The number was originally set at five in a lot of locations in Las Vegas and online. However, the line quickly came down as a ton of money poured in for the Ravens. The money was sufficient that Las Vegas lowered the line from 5 to 4, and then once again down to 3 1/2, where it currently stands.
I spoke with Jay about why so much money was coming in on the Ravens, and he thinks it is a combination of their run in the playoffs and the Ray Lewis factor. The Ravens were favorites against the Colts and covered, but then were sizable underdogs against the Broncos and Patriots. Those upsets seemed to bolster bettors early in the days after the AFC Championship Game.
The Ray Lewis factor is a tough one to gauge because it involves intangibles. The Ravens have an inspiring leader who is planning on retiring after the Super Bowl. The Ravens defense has struggled at times this year, but they stepped up big against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Is it just a late season surge, or can we rally attribute it to Ray Lewis' "leadership"?
It is tough to figure out, but for people like Jay Rood, all that matters is where the money is coming from. As long as large chunks of money are coming in for one team, the line is likely to move down. Sports books are looking to get as close to even money coming in on both teams as possible. If they get a fairly even split on Super Bowl wagers, they have a good chance of coming out ahead at the end of the day.
Rood did point out that the 49ers money would be showing up as the game approached. In his view, they are playing balanced football and have a certain "clutch" factor of their own. He said he is already seeing smarter money coming in on the 49ers on the money line. The money line means you are betting on the team to simply win, without worrying about the spread. You get lower odds, but then you do not have to worry about the number.
While there is plenty to bet on with each team, things get especially crazy with proposition bets. Prop bets create "side action," providing a chance to bet on numerous aspects of the game within the game. You can bet on things as simple as Torrey Smith receiving yards, who will win MVP and who will score the first touchdown. You can also bet on something more complicated like a cross-sport bet. The Lakers and Pistos are playing on Super Bowl Sunday, and some places will offer a prop such as "Dwight Howard blocks vs. Joe Flacco touchdowns, which will be higher?"
As we mentioned last year, MGM Resorts keeps their prop bets a bit more sane, avoiding the crazier things you can find online. At Bovada, you can bet on everything from the National Anthem over/under (2:15) to the color of the Gatorade dumped on the winning coach (Clear/Water is a 7/4 favorite).
Super Bowl XLVII is just around the corner, and money will continue to pour in. Most oddsmakers have settled in at 49ers -3 1/2. Rood does not expect the line to change much from there now that some money is coming in on the 49ers. With a fair amount of "smart" money coming in on the 49ers money line, this could mean we are in line for a highly entertaining Super Bowl.