Super Bowl XLVIII kicks off at 6:25 p.m. ET, and while two fan bases have an interest in the outcome, a sizable portion of America will have a financial stake in the result. Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest gambling day of the year, both for Las Vegas and for oddsmakers around the world. Super Bowl XLVII saw $90.76 million wagered in Las Vegas, which was a drop in the bucket compared to the billions wagered everywhere else.
The history of Super Bowl wagering features an assortment of crazy covers that have cost Vegas millions, and wild prop bets that suck in gamblers with their shear randomness. Whether you're at a Super Bowl party, in MetLife Stadium, or visiting Las Vegas on Super Bowl Sunday, you probably have wagered money on some aspect of next Sunday's Broncos-Seahawks tilt.
Over the years, oddsmakers have done a great job at setting the favorite. Through the 47 Super Bowls to date, favorites are 26-19-2 against the spread. More importantly, underdogs have only won eight games outright. Of course, as this table shows, three of the last four and four of the last six Super Bowls saw the underdog take home the Lombardi Trophy. Furthermore, 9 of the last 12 Super Bowls have seen the underdog cover. The NFL's move toward parity might very well be evening out the playing field just a little bit more.
|SB||Year||NFC||AFC||Favorite||Over/Under||ATS Result||O/U Result|
|XLVIII||2014||Seattle Seahawks||Denver Broncos||Broncos -3||47|
|XLVII||2013||San Francisco 49ers||Baltimore Ravens||49ers -4.5||48||Underdog||Over|
|XLVI||2012||New York Giants||New England Patriots||Patriots -2.5||53||Underdog||Under|
|XLV||2011||Green Bay Packers||Pittsburgh Steelers||Packers -3||45||Favorite||Over|
|XLIV||2010||New Orleans Saints||Indianapolis Colts||Colts -5||57||Underdog||Under|
|XLIII||2009||Arizona Cardinals||Pittsburgh Steelers||Steelers -7||46||Underdog||Over|
|XLII||2008||New York Giants||New England Patriots||Patriots -12||55||Underdog||Under|
|XLI||2007||Chicago Bears||Indianapolis Colts||Colts -7||47||Favorite||Under|
|XL||2006||Seattle Seahawks||PIttsburgh Steelers||Steelers -4||47||Favorite||Under|
|XXIX||2005||Philadelphia Eagles||New England Patriots||Patriots -7||46.5||Underdog||Under|
|XXXVIII||2004||Carolina Panthers||New England Patriots||Patriots -7||37.5||Underdog||Over|
|XXXVII||2003||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Oakland Raiders||Raiders -4||44||Underdog||Over|
|XXXVI||2002||St. Louis Rams||New England Patriots||Rams -14||53||Underdog||Under|
|XXXV||2001||New York Giants||Baltimore Ravens||Ravens -3||33||Favorite||Over|
|XXXIV||2000||St. Louis Rams||Tennessee Titans||Rams -7||45||Push||Under|
|XXXIII||1999||Atlanta Falcons||Denver Broncos||Broncos -7.5||52.5||Favorite||Over|
|XXXII||1998||Green Bay Packers||Denver Broncos||Packers -11||49||Underdog||Over|
|XXXI||1997||Green Bay Packers||New England Patriots||Packers -14||49||Push-Over||Over|
|XXX||1996||Dallas Cowboys||Pittsburgh Steelers||Cowboys -13.5||51||Underdog||Under|
|XXIX||1995||San Francisco 49ers||San Diego Chargers||49ers -18.5||54||Favorite||Over|
|XXVIII||1994||Dallas Cowboys||Buffalo Bills||Cowboys -10.5||50.5||Favorite||Under|
|XXVII||1993||Dallas Cowboys||Buffalo Bills||Cowboys -6.5||44.5||Favorite||Over|
|XXVI||1992||Washington Redskins||Buffalo Bills||Redskins -7||49||Favorite||Over|
|XXV||1991||New York Giants||Buffalo Bills||Bills -7||40.5||Underdog||Under|
|XXIV||1990||San Francisco 49ers||Denver Broncos||49ers -12||48||Favorite||Over|
|XXIII||1989||San Francisco 49ers||Cincinnati Bengals||49ers -7||48||Underdog||Under|
|XXII||1988||Washington Redskins||Denver Broncos||Broncos -3||47||Underdog||Over|
|XXI||1987||New York Giants||Denver Broncos||Giants -9.5||40||Favorite||Over|
|XX||1986||Chicago Bears||New England Patriots||Bears -10||37.5||Favorite||Over|
|XIX||1985||San Francisco 49ers||Miami Dolphins||49ers -3.5||53||Favorite||Over|
|XVIII||1984||Washington Redskins||Los Angeles Raiders||Redskins -3||48||Favorite||Under|
|XVII||1983||Washington Redskins||Miami Dolphins||Dolphins -3||36.5||Underdog||Over|
|XVI||1982||San Francisco 49ers||Cincinnati Bengals||49ers -1||48||Favorite||Under|
|XV||1981||Philadelphia Eagles||Oakland Raiders||Eagles -3||37.5||Underdog||Under|
|XIV||1980||Los Angeles Rams||Pittsburgh Steelers||Steelers -10.5||36||Favorite||Over|
|XIII||1979||Dallas Cowboys||Pittsburgh Steelers||Steelers -3.5||37||Favorite||Over|
|XII||1978||Dallas Cowboys||Denver Broncos||Cowboys -6||39||Favorite||Under|
|XI||1977||Minnesota Vikings||Oakland Raiders||Raiders -4||38||Favorite||Over|
|X||1976||Dallas Cowboys||Pittsburgh Steelers||Steelers -7||36||Underdog||Over|
|IX||1975||Minnesota Vikings||Pittsburgh Steelers||Steelers -3||33||Favorite||Under|
|VIII||1974||Minnesota Vikings||Miami Dolphins||Dolphins -6.5||33||Favorite||Under|
|VII||1973||Washington Redskins||Miami Dolphins||Dolphins -1||33||Favorite||Under|
|VI||1972||Dallas Cowboys||Miami Dolphins||Cowboys -6||34||Favorite||Under|
|V||1971||Dallas Cowboys||Baltimore Colts||Colts -2.5||36||Favorite||Under|
|IV||1970||Minnesota Vikings||Kansas City Chiefs||Vikings -12||39||Underdog||Under|
|III||1969||Baltimore Colts||New York Jets||Colts -18||40||Underdog||Under|
|II||1968||Green Bay Packers||Oakland Raiders||Packers -13.5||43||Favorite||Over|
|I||1967||Green Bay Packers||Kansas City Chiefs||Packers -14||Favorite|
Las Vegas has generally faired well each season, but there are a few notable games that cost the sports books big time. In 2008, the New York Giants stunned the undefeated New New England Patriots, in a game made even more famous by David Tyree's miracle helmet catch. In 1995, the San Francisco 49ers covered the largest spread in Super Bowl history (18.5 points), blowing out the San Diego Chargers 49-26.
The worst day in Super Bowl history for Las Vegas came in 1979, on a day referred to as Black Sunday. The Pittsburgh Steelers opened as 4.5-point favorites over the Dallas Cowboys. A flood of Dallas money convinced oddsmakers to drop the line to Steelers -3.5. The Steelers ended up winning 35-31. Sports books had to pay off bettors who got the Cowboys at +4.5, and the bettors who got the Steelers at -3.5, and it was money back for the folks who pushed when the line was at Steelers -4. The Gaming Control Board did not track the money, but the sports books took a bath on that one.
Some of the biggest action on Super Bowl Sunday will surround prop bets. You might bet on the over/under of the length of the National Anthem. You could bet on the color of the Gatorade poured on the winning coach. You might bet first player to score, or the first type of score. And those are arguably the most normal prop bets. If you are really bored, you can potentially bet on things like "Which will be higher: Total goals scored in West Bromwich vs. Liverpool, or Peyton Manning touchdown passes" (I'd take Manning all day).
Prop bets have grown like crazy, and they all date back to the man they call The Fridge. In 1986, sports books put up odds of approximately 40/1 that William "The Refrigerator" Perry would score a touchdown. The rookie defensive lineman was occasionally used as a fullback near the goal line. He had two rushing touchdowns that season, but Bears coach Mike Ditka declared that Perry would not get a shot at the end zone in the Super Bowl. Gamblers ignored Iron Mike, and the influx of money dropped the odds all the way down to 5/1. Las Vegas lost a sizable amount of money when The Fridge rumbled in, but the marketing value of the prop bet took off.
More recently, Christina Aguilera managed to make gambling history with her rendition of the National Anthem at Super Bowl XLV. The over/under was set by Bodog at 1:54. Aguilera ended up clocking in right at 1:54, but if you watch the video below, you might notice that she skipped some words.
Different online sports books had different rules for it, but fortunately some refunded wagers on the National Anthem. Given Aguilera's singing form, the over seemed like a sure thing, and it would have been had she not botched it. That is probably as good a reason as any to not wager on this kind of thing, but that will hardly stop us this year.
There will be a vast array of prop bets to bet on over the next week and a half, and SB Nation will be here to encourage this kind of behavior. Best of luck!