Vocal bettors arrive early, stay late


So, where were you when the lights went out at the Super Bowl?

If you were at a Las Vegas sports books or attending one of numerous parties around town Sunday, things were just fine. You probably re-checked your proposition bets, ordered a beer, grabbed something to eat or killed time at a slot machine or blackjack table and waited for the game to resume.

And when it did, 34 minutes later, you were treated to one of the most entertaining second halves in Super Bowl history.

The Baltimore Ravens nearly coughed up a 22-point lead to Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers, but the Ravens held on, taking a safety with four seconds to go and winning, 34-31.

Fernando Agunez of Las Vegas was sad that his 49ers lost. But he wasn't leaving the Red Rock Resort race and sports book empty-handed. He was holding prop-bet tickets that a safety would be scored (plus-750) and that Kaepernick would score a touchdown (minus-140).

Like many locals, Agunez decided to watch the game at a sports book rather than stay home. Of course, he had to get to the book early to get a seat.

"I can watch it anywhere," Agunez said. "But it's more fun in the book. You've got everyone yelling and screaming. It's better than being at the game.

"I got here at 6 a.m. You do what you've got to do. It's the Super Bowl."

Gary Wolf of Las Vegas usually goes to a private party at one of the hotels, but his friend didn't have a ticket for him this year. Instead, he went to Red Rock Resort, where he bets football every week during the season.

"It's fun being around other people who have a common interest," Wolf said. "I'm here with some friends and we've got our seats. I got here at 9:30 and we're all set."

A lot of locals spend the entire NFL season frequenting their favorite sports books. The Super Bowl didn't seem to scare them away. Certainly not at Red Rock, where its spacious book was standing-room only, its private party at Cherry nightclub was packed and so was the viewing party at the Rocks Lounge.

"It's a celebration," said Jason McCormick, Red Rock Resort director of race and sports. "We see the same faces year after year, and everyone's enjoying themselves."

That was the case over at Cherry, where invited guests gorged on chicken wings, hot dogs, crab cakes, Kobe beef sliders, an open bar and desserts, including deep-fried Oreos.

As several hundred watched inside the club, dozens more took advantage of the mild winter weather to watch the game outside on big-screen televisions while sitting on plush couches.

Denise Petrovic of Las Vegas was enjoying herself outside.

"Normally, I'd watch at home," she said. "But this is nice."

Petrovic said she was rooting for San Francisco but wasn't backing her choice with cash.

"I didn't bet this time," she said.

Adjacent to the sports book, business was brisk at Pink's, the legendary Hollywood hot dog emporium. Pink's had opened Christmas Day, but it was for days such as the Super Bowl that Pink's set up shop at Red Rock Resort (it also has a location at Planet Hollywood).

"We've had great business during the playoffs," manager David Shapin said. "But we expect a big day today. We'll probably sell close to 800 hot dogs.

"This will probably be our busiest day, along with the start of March Madness (the NCAA Tournament)."

While there was a line for hot dogs, the lines at the betting counters were longer. McCormick said there was plenty of betting action in the hours leading up to kickoff, and he had his entire staff working the ticket machines. Lines often ran 10 to 12 bettors deep.

"No vacation days today," he said.

After starting as 3½-point favorites, the 49ers went off at minus-4½, and the majority of prop tickets involved Kaepernick, the multitalented former UNR star with whom UNLV fans are plenty familiar.

Wolf believed in Kaepernick. He was all over the 49ers. But as Wolf watched San Francisco fall behind 28-6 early in the third quarter on Jacoby Jones' 108-yard kickoff return, he was ready to head back to his Summerlin home.

"I don't think they can come back," said Wolf, who said he's been part of the 49ers faithful dating back to 1958. "They're too sloppy in the secondary."

Then the Mercedes-Benz Superdome went dark. And when the lights finally came back on, so too did the 49ers. Agunez believed they could rally.

"Sure they can come back," he said. "They just have to quit turning it over."

And as the 49ers inched closer, the crowd in the sports book got louder. It took a fourth-down incompletion by Kaepernick with 1:46 remaining to finally silence their fans who were clamoring for a record sixth Super Bowl win.

Meanwhile, the handful of Ravens fans in the book, including Las Vegas' Joseph Gonzales, got to celebrate.

Gonzales had bet the Ravens on the money line, getting plus-160. He was sweating it out at the end, praying there wouldn't be a pass interference call on that final fourth-and-goal pass by Kaepernick. And when the flag stayed in the official's pocket, Gonzales jumped up and down in celebration.

"I was very nervous," he said. "But that's what betting's about."

Indeed. And it's probably even money that McCormick and his sports book brethren will have a new prop bet up next year: Will there be a power outage at Met Life Stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII?

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

 

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