For many Americans, the Super Bowl isn't merely about the matchup between the NFC and AFC champions. It's not just about grading the commercials that corporations spend millions to broadcast. Instead, an ever-increasing number of adults treat the NFL's premier event as an opportunity to win some money.
Betting on NFL games is nothing new. Millions of dollars change hands on every game. Estimates put the total amount wagered domestically in a given season in the mid nine-figures.
Betting on pro football has become so prominent that even Disney-owned subsidiary ESPN created a weekly segment on its flagship SportsCenter program to discuss wagering on the NFL, and established a dedicated gambling section on ESPN.com. Betting is no longer on the fringes of the sports industry; it's one of the biggest catalysts behind the industry's success.
More people bet on the Super Bowl than any event in American sports. The total amount of money on the line worldwide is counted not in millions, but billions.
In Las Vegas, last year's game produced a record $119 million, smashing the previous high of $98.9 million set just one year prior. That total produced an estimated $19.7 million in profits for the sportsbooks, also a record. And that number could have reached even higher if not for a few fluke events.
Betters often wager on the first score of the game. Everything from a touchdown to a field goal is offered. In 2014, casinos gave favorable odds for a safety. Additionally, some even offered to bet that the first play of the game would be a safety at +4000 odds. When the first snap from scrimmage soared over Peyton Manning's head and into the end zone, sportsbooks were forced to pay out incredible sums, hurting their bottom line.
Part of the reason for the excess in gambling relates to the importance of the game, but it also has to do with the types of bets available. Prop bets are a popular option for casual betters looking to add some extra excitement to the Super Bowl festivities.
In addition to well-known wagers on the national anthem and the first player to score a touchdown, interested fans can wager on everything from individual performances to the halftime show. The wide array of options brings in a cavalcade of people who otherwise do not bet on sports.
This year, fans can bet on the color of Katy Perry's hair during her halftime performance. Black/brown is the odds-on favorite at 2-to-1, though more adventurous fans can put money down on purple at 5-to-1. Betters can also wager on what outfit adorns New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the game. Gray with cut off sleeves, Belichick's customary option, have the lowest payout.
Fans more interested in what happens on the field can bet on who will win the Super Bowl MVP award. The quarterbacks are the heavy favorites, with Tom Brady and Russell Wilson coming in at 8-to-5 and 7-to-2 respectively.
The beauty of prop bets is that even when the game is a blowout and the outcome is basically determined, there is still plenty of incentive to keep your eyes glued to the television and watch the game until the final whistle. Heck, the color of the Gatorade dumped on the winning coach could be difference in whether you can afford that new leather couch or not.