Vegas bookmakers' cheering Patriots in Super Bowl

Tue Jan 31, 2012 4:22pm EST

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady answers questions during media day for the NFL Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis January 31, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Young

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady answers questions during media day for the NFL Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis January 31, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

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(Reuters) - New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady can count Las Vegas casinos among his supporters for this weekend's Super Bowl after most of the millions of dollars wagered on the game has been for a New York Giants victory.

The point-spread for the National Football League's (NFL) title game on February 5 in Indianapolis has remained steady over the last week and the Nevada gambling community is backing the Giants, who were three-point underdogs, as of Tuesday.

MGM Resorts International, which operates 10 sports books on the Las Vegas Strip, said about 65 per cent of the money bet so far in its casinos was for the Giants.

"At this point we are still getting some dog money, they are betting the Giants, and I think that will be the trend going into the weekend," Jay Rood, vice president of the race and sports book at MGM, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"I am fairly certain that it's happening throughout the whole state (of Nevada) as well so I'm pretty sure the state is going to need a Patriots victory."

Head coach Bill Belichick's Patriots enter the Super Bowl on a 10-game winning streak dating back to the regular season and face a Giants team that stunned them in the title game four years ago.

Questions about the Patriots defense and the status of injured tight end Rob Gronkowski, one of Brady's key targets all season, have made the Giants appealing to bettors in what promises to be a close game.

"Being on Brady and Belichick's side is not a bad position," said Rood. "It's a fighting chance at least."

While the Giants were luring the bulk of bets early in the week, the casinos said nearly 80 percent of Super Bowl wagers were not made until the weekend.

Some of the sports books expected a sizeable portion of the remaining bets to be in support of the Patriots, which could potentially change which team the casinos want to win.

" If that comes in it's going to balance this thing out a little bit," said Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sports book operations for the LVH SuperBook. "Or we might not see that, so in that case, yeah, most of the sports books are going to need the Patriots."

GAMBLING FRENZY

Every year, the NFL's championship game creates a gambling frenzy in Nevada that is considered by some to be a bellwether for the broader U.S. economy. The state handled $87.5 million in Super Bowl bets last year when Green Bay beat Pittsburgh.

According to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, wagers on this year's Super Bowl were expected to surpass last year's but would be hard pressed to top the record $94.5 million set six years ago when Pittsburgh beat Seattle.

"More people are coming but they are spending less individually so we are seeing increases but the increases don't quite match that volume that we've seen," said Mike Lawton, senior research analyst for the Nevada Gaming Control Board. "People's wallets just are not spending as much as they were."

Aside from traditional bets on which team will win or who will be chosen as the most valuable player, gamblers can also wager on a range of things, including whether Kelly Clarkson will forget or omit at least one word when she sings the U.S. National Anthem before kickoff.

Gamblers can also bet on what color sports drink will be dumped on the head coach of the winning team and whether Madonna will be wearing fishnet stockings at any point during her Super Bowl halftime show.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Julian Linden)

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