It was 7 p.m. on the nose when Kevin Durant, Tiger Woods and various other nonfootball stars became Super Bowl betting subjects. The giant board went dark for a few seconds, then suddenly it lit up like a fireworks show on New Year’s Eve as hundreds of proposition bets scrolled.
The total for Peyton Manning’s passing yards: 289½. Will Manning throw an interception? “Yes” is minus-200 and “No” is plus-175.
In 10 days, Manning and the Denver Broncos meet the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII in East Rutherford, N.J. The Broncos are 2½-point favorites, and the total is 47. It should be an entertaining game. The props guarantee it won’t be boring.
The game just might go into overtime — a plus-600 prop payout — for the first time ever. But even if it’s a blowout, every play will matter thanks to the prop bets.
“We’re right around 350,” LVH sports book director Jay Kornegay said, after counting the props before they were unveiled to the public. “We have a couple of new ones this year. We can come up with more. You could keep going and going. It’s just time. It takes a long time, and it’s a lot of work.”
There were some basic props posted Thursday afternoon at the MGM Resorts and South Point books. But the LVH rolls out the longest, most exotic list in a follow-the-leader ritual.
At 7:05, about 30 guys were lined up at a betting window to start feeding the monster, and another 100 or so were sitting around staring at the board’s bright lights, heads tilted up and looking on in amazement as if a spaceship was landing. It takes time to process the numbers.
The opening-night crowd is always a mixture of the sharpest bettors around and some of the usual goofy cartoon characters you see at every casino in town. Props have turned the Super Bowl into big business for serious bettors and just an amusement park ride for others.
This can be a tired story for veterans yet still a new phenomenon to rookies. Kornegay answers calls from media outlets across the country each year.
“Sometimes they ask some really generic questions, such as, what’s the craziest prop?” Kornegay said. “So I’ll say, ‘What’s the number of times Manning says ‘Omaha’ versus the game-time temperature?
“No. We don’t have that one. We’re kind of restricted.”
In Nevada, props are restricted to what is determined on the field of play, using the official box score. At one offshore book, the over-under for how many times Manning says “Omaha” is 27½.
The game-time temperature in the New York City area is expected to be in the 20s. Kornegay has been getting daily forecast updates from a friend at the National Weather Service. The threat of inclement weather caused the LVH oddsmakers to shade most of the prop numbers on the low side.
“The weather concerns certainly were part of the discussion,” said Kornegay, who spent most of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday making the props with book manager Ed Salmons and assistant managers Chris Bennett and Jeff Sherman.
Super Bowl props were available at Las Vegas books in the late 1980s, but it was typically a one-page menu with 20 to 30 props. In 1995, when San Francisco was an 18½-point favorite over San Diego, Kornegay and his staff — at the Imperial Palace at the time — added about 75 props.
“The games were boring, so we were trying to come up with props to keep everybody interested,” Kornegay said. “That’s when it really took off. The response was overwhelming.”
One cross-sport prop pitted Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan, who was playing in a game that weekend, against the 49ers. Who would score more points?
“I don’t remember the line, and I don’t remember the result,” Kornegay said, “but I’m pretty sure the 49ers won the bet.”
Similar cross-sport props remain popular. The LVH has posted one with Durant, in his game for the Oklahoma City Thunder on Feb. 1, against Manning. It’s Durant’s points versus Manning’s pass attempts (-7½).
There are props featuring LeBron James, soccer players, an Ultimate Fighting Championship bout and, as always, golfers. Woods’ fourth-round score in a Dubai tournament is minus-5½ against Eric Decker’s receiving yards for the Broncos.
After the LVH opens the numbers, there is usually some prop plagiarism that occurs at other books.
“Some people ask, ‘Are you flattered or do you get ticked off?’ I don’t complain about it,” Kornegay said. “It’s not like we set the whole market. I know there are some other books that do some good work, too.”
Here are two of the new props: The total yardage of all made field goals in the game is 114½, and the total yardage of all touchdowns is 72½.
“Years ago, these were considered sucker bets,” Kornegay said.
Now, props are the biggest part of the Super Bowl betting circus, pure amusement for some and serious money-making opportunities for others.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.