Betting on the Super Bowl in Nevada set a record, with nearly $140 million wagered on Sunday’s game, according to state regulators.
Meanwhile, the status quo of sports betting being illegal in the other 49 states persists, representing a missed opportunity for gaming revenue and tax dollars outside of Nevada.
That new high-water mark came even as ratings for the big game were at their lowest point in several years.
Super Bowl betting handle hits new high
The Nevada Gaming Control Board released figures for sports betting at the states’ 196 sportsbooks.
The books took $138.5 million in wagers on Super Bowl 51 between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons. (The Patriots covered the spread and pushed the point total to the “over” with a touchdown in overtime to win the NFL’s championship.)
The books won about $10.9 million from bettors, an eight percent hold.
Upward trend for Nevada sports betting
But the more important trend is that Nevada sports betting continues to see an upward tick.
Just five years ago, handle for the Super Bowl routinely was under $100 million in the state. Here is a look at handle and win over the past five years:
- 2017: $138,480,136 handle; $10,937,826 win
- 2016: $132,545,587; $13,314,539
- 2015: $115,986,086, $3,261,066
- 2014: $119,400,822, $19,673,960
- 2013: $98,936,798, $ 7,206,460
Over the past five years, that represents an increase of 40 percent in total handle on the game.
Numbers underline opportunity for other states
Currently, betting on the Super Bowl is illegal in all states outside of Nevada, because of a federal law called PASPA. Why a federal law prevents states from regulating sports betting themselves is consistently being called into question.
The numbers also come in the wake of estimates that Americans wagered nearly $5 billion on the Super Bowl, the vast majority of it at illegal offshore sportsbooks.
The growing interest in sports betting — both in Nevada and by Americans in general — highlights an opportunity that the United States continues to miss.
TV ratings down for Super Bowl
While betting interest in the Super Bowl was at an all-time high, viewership of the game did not enjoy the same uptick.
Fox Television’s broadcast of Super Bowl LI on Sunday night drew 111.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen data released by the network on Monday, the smallest audience for the National Football League’s title game in four years.
Of course, ratings for the NFL had been down nearly the entire season, so this doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
Still, the intersection of sports betting, fan engagement and TV viewership continues to go unexploited by the NFL, at least directly. The league continues to argue that sports betting should not be legalized in the US. (However, mainstream sports media routinely generates content aimed at sports bettors, despite the legal environment and the NFL’s public stance.)
But interest in sports betting is so high that broadcaster Brent Musburger recently left his position with ABC/ESPN to help launch a sports betting media company. That’s despite the fact that Americans have to bet at online sportsbooks that are operating illegally in 49 states.