Fans bet record $98.9 million in Nevada on Super Bowl

LAS VEGAS — Sports fans bet a record $98.9 million at Nevada casinos on the Super Bowl, the Nevada Gaming Control Board said Monday.

Unaudited tallies show 183 sports books made $7.2 million on the football action. The San Francisco 49ers started out as a 5-point favorite but the Baltimore Ravens won 34-31.

Odds makers say California fans drove the unprecedented handle, flooding Las Vegas and the Lake Tahoe area with wagers on the hometown team, which hadn’t been in the Super Bowl since 1995.

“Northern Nevada gets swamped with 49er money,” LVH book director Jay Kornegay said.

Bookmakers speculated that the popularity of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who played his college football at Nevada, drove some of the betting among locals.

The previous record was set in 2006, when gamblers wagered $94.5 million on the Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Book makers said they took a beating this year on proposition bets, including a long-shot on whether there would be a safety. Ravens punter Sam Koch took a safety for the final score with 4 seconds left.

Casinos retained 7.3 percent of the millions wagered, slightly less than the average hold during the past decade, which has fluctuated from lows of negative 2.8 percent to highs of 17 percent.

The 65 points scored in New Orleans easily exceeded the over/under of 49. Gamblers bet the line down 1½ points before the game to give the 49ers a 3 ½ handicap by kickoff.

Late money poured in for the “over” wager and for the 49ers, who have built a reputation as a second-half team, Kornegay said.

Johnny Avello, director of race and sports at Wynn Las Vegas, said the big plays that characterized Sunday’s game and made it fun to watch were gloomy news for casinos, which offer a growing list of proposition bets on everything from whether quarterbacks will throw interceptions to whether teams will score in the final two minutes of the first half.

“Everything that could’ve happened yesterday almost did,” Avello said. “All the props — ‘Will this guy pass by this much?’ ‘Will this guy make this many receptions’ — all of those were, ‘Yes.’”

“The safety was awful,” he added. “When we cashed last night, it seemed like everyone had a bet on a safety.”

Casinos paid out at 9-to-1 for the safety. Fans who bet that the 49ers’ final score would be on a safety cashed in at 50-to-1.

Sports books also paid out big last year when the New York Giants played the New England Patriots and the first score of the game was a safety. Next year, Avello plans to lower the odds for that outcome.

Nevada sports books have lost only twice on the Super Bowl in the past 20 years, most recently in 2008, when New York beat the Patriots, costing casinos a record $2.6 million.

Odds makers released numbers for next year’s Super Bowl before fans even had time to stumble back to their hotel rooms Sunday night.

RJ Bell of Las Vegas-based Pregame.com made the Patriots 7-to-1 favorites, with the 49ers and Denver Broncos following close behind at 8-to-1.

Gamblers wanted to see the odds for another Super Bowl blackout, Kornegay said, but even Vegas can’t offer that action.

“We have to stay on the field of play,” Kornegay said. “But I’m pretty sure that some of the offshore books will have that bet next year.”

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