Bookmakers Score Big for Super Bowl XXXV

1 February 2001
In a nutshell, the amount of money wagered over the Internet on the Super Bowl is rising sharply while the amount wagered at Las Vegas Sports Books continues to decline.

Long after the final snap of Super Bowl XXXV, winners continue to roll in.

Once industry experts had a chance to study the numbers, and returns from Las Vegas sportsbooks were counted, it became clear that the Baltimore Ravens were not the only ones with celebrating to do after Sunday's championship game.

A flurry of action on the days leading up to the big game meant a huge windfall for both sportsbooks in Las Vegas as well as online sportsbooks around the world.

Sean Graham, trading director with Bet Internet said his company’s sportsbooks saw a tremendous increase in business.

"We did three or four times the turnover from last year," Graham said. "We did about $250,000 worth of business in one weekend, easily our biggest day of the year."

Jim Magner of Sports Interaction, another sportsbook offering online betting, said his company also had a great day of business.

"It was our busiest day ever in terms of new accounts," he said. "The Internet was phenomenal for us. We did four or five times more than normally thanks to the Internet. We took three times more in what we did last year."

Industry analyst Sebastian Sinclair predicts that the same success was seen across the board for Internet sportsbooks. Sinclair estimates that $400 million was wagered this year through online sportsbooks on the Super Bowl.

Those kinds of figures make chump change out of the $67.6 million wagered at traditional Las Vegas sportsbooks on the game, but the books on the Strip aren’t complaining.

Thanks in large part to the game going over the 32.5 point over/under mark, the 148 sportsbooks brought in a record-setting $11 million in winnings from the game.

While the total amount wagered on the game was the lowest since 1994, the amount won by the sportsbooks was an all-time high.

An increase in action for the New York Giants in the final days leading up to the Super Bowl helped propel the Vegas books to the new highs.

"The public was in love with the Giants and they were wrong this year," John Avello, sports book manager for Bally’s and Paris-Las Vegas, told the Associated Press.

Still, the falling numbers in Las Vegas--$67.6 million this year from $71 million last year and $76 million two years ago--seem to support the notion that sports betting business in Nevada is on the decline.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Graham said that his U.K.-based operation was helped by the media coverage given to the game in Europe.

"The game was covered live by Sky Sports," he said. "They had a pre-game show and everything. All the experts were divided right down the middle, so that forced a lot of bettors to take a chance. We saw a lot of interest from both sides."

The Sky coverage didn’t just bring in punters from Europe.

"We had a drove of Asian customers come to the website," Graham said. "We had a couple of Asian bettors wager $15,000 and $20,000 on the game."

U.K. betting giant Ladbrokes didn’t see quite the influx, but it this was no surprise.

"Of course we don't take bets from America, so the fact that the game kicks off at 11:30 p.m. local time does not help," said Ladbrokes spokesperson Andy Clifton. The company did see a good response in only its first year of Super Bowl betting online though.

"On the Internet, we weren't in existence last year so any turnover was an increase," he said.

To attract bettors, Ladbrokes did have live, in-game betting, and Clifton said the response was good. "In-running betting was a qualified success," he said. "It attracted a fair amount of business but was not widely advertised or hyped, so we were pretty pleased."

Clifton and Magner agreed that the defensive battle--which was predicted, and in many terms delivered--attracted fewer bettors than normal. Punters that were impartial to either team may have been less inclined to wager on the point spread, but that doesn’t mean the proposition, or side bets, weren’t more popular.

Magner said the alternative types of wagers saw a lot of hits.

"Normally you get 25 percent of your bets from the proposition bets," he said. "This year we had nearly one-half of the wagers coming from the side bets. Likewise, a bet on the winning margin accounted for nearly one-quarter of our action, and that is incredible. The bettors may not have been in love with the point spread, but they certainly found other areas to channel their money to."

Nobody knows where Kevin Smith came from. He simply showed up one day and started writing articles for IGN. We liked him, so we decided to keep him. We think you'll like him too. Kevin can be reached at