For many Americans, this year’s Super Bowl marked the first time they could bet on the big game within their home state. As operators looked to make the most of the biggest event on the US sporting calendar – without experiencing outages – Cole Rush looks at how operators fared on Super Bowl Sunday.
The Super Bowl is now nearly two weeks past, and sportsbook operators are back in the homeostasis of “normal” sports betting. The big game siphons all time and attention, and for good reason. The Super Bowl regularly rakes in record viewership, and this year a larger chunk of that audience than ever before was able to place legal, regulated bets on the game.
Naturally, operators had to plan ahead. For many, this year’s game was the first time sports betting became an option.
“Our approach to the Super Bowl this year was to offer more contests, promotions, and opportunities for engagement to players,” said a BetMGM spokeswoman. “Most notably, we introduced King of the Big Game, a free-to-play contest that allowed players to make predictions on six propositions for a chance to win $100,000.”
The approach paid off.
“BetMGM was able to operate at its largest scale ever and experienced a new record for first-time depositors in a single day,” the spokeswoman continued. “The contests and promotions we ran were a huge hit. We plan to keep building on our successes and listening to feedback from our players so that we can deliver the best sports betting experience.”
PointsBet also aimed for a streamlined betting experience during the big game.
“We took a similar approach to last year in trying to provide the fastest betting experience with the most amount of markets to bet on for our clients,” says Mike Korn, Trading Content Analyst for PointsBet. “This year was just obviously on a bigger scale in terms of bets, users, and overall handle.”
“It took months of preparation and was a collaborative effort on all fronts,” Korn continues.
Both BetMGM and PointsBet reported no major issues with their systems during the Super Bowl.
“It’s a credit to our technology platform by Entain, our retail operations with MGM Resorts, and the entire BetMGM team,” said the BetMGM spokeswoman.
Popular Bets And Surprises
The Bengals and Rams brought a wealth of surprises to the gridiron, making for an unpredictable back-and-forth and a slew of intriguing prop bets. Operators saw a lot of action on the usual suspects: moneyline, point spreads, totals. But there was a lot of activity on game props, perhaps owing to the influx of new bettors seeking a second-screen entertainment channel.
As for those “normal” bets, BetMGM noted the underdog Bengals were popular choice for fans.
“The Bengals received the most bets to win the Super Bowl—52% of bets for the spread and 71% for moneyline. The Bengals lore continued to grow throughout the playoffs with each surprising victory, and we saw that translate into action at the books,” said the BetMGM spokeswoman.
BetRivers shared some of its data as well, and it tells a slightly different story. The Rams were backed by 53% of the total game money (spread and Moneyline), while the Bengals were backed by 52% of the total game tickets (Spread and Moneyline). A BetRivers representative said the findings aren’t incredibly surprising, considering the game lines opened in a close-to-even split.
At PointsBet, the Bengals point spread edged out the Rams, earning 56% of handle over the Rams’ 44%. The moneyline split leaned to the other side: Rams 52% and Bengals 48%.
PointsBet’s Mike Korn says: “Obviously, moneyline in the Super Bowl is the most popular, but one wild stat was that Cooper Kupp to score a TD had more bets and handle than the point spread of either team.”
Good on those bettors—Kupp capped off a remarkable season with two Super Bowl touchdowns (this writer even had $10 on the wide receiver to score two, and it paid off).
That brings us to props, which feature more heavily in the Super Bowl than any regular season or playoff game. Bettors flock to the weird and wacky.
The coin toss seems most prevalent among the novelty props. BetRivers’ top two prop bets by handle were tails and heads, respectively, with heads earning the win (much to the dismay of this writer, who had bet on tails).
BetMGM didn’t offer exact numbers, but tells a similar story: “BetMGM offered more than 700 props for the Super Bowl, and we found some of the more offbeat ones to be the most popular. For example, coin toss and Gatorade color were in the top 20 of the most bet props.”
PointsBet’s data fits the narrative, too. “Coin toss and Gatorade color were two of our most popular novelty props,” said Mike Korn. “Blue, which was the winning color, closed at +400 odds. Surprisingly enough, we had more than 60% of the coin toss bets on tails, so the book won when it landed on heads.”
Beyond the novelty props, BetMGM noted one bet that could’ve meant a large loss for the book.
“We dodged a bullet with the Rams winning in regulation, as overtime would have been the worst possible result for the book,” said BetMGM’s spokeswoman.
BetRivers had the line on overtime at +950, the book’s sixth most popular prop bet by total money.
But the Rams earned a regulation win, and the prop dissolved, giving way to the highly anticipated Gatorade bath (in blue).
For now, books are setting their sites on the near-term future: March Madness, the NBA Finals, and the Stanley Cup. But the 2023 Super Bowl is ever-looming.
“Given the overwhelmingly positive feedback we got from our promotions and contests, we will look to grow those offerings, to provide more ways for players to get in on the action next year,” said the BetMGM spokeswoman.
“There’s always observations and room to grow from major events like the Super Bowl each year. We strive to bring the fastest betting experience to customers,” said PointsBet’s Mike Korn.