In the mid-1970s, when Jimmy Vaccaro rolled into Las Vegas and started working in sports books, the Super Bowl was just another Sunday. Interest in the game was minimal, and there were no casino parties.
“We had only three windows open, and there was maybe three people in line 20 minutes before the kickoff,” said Vaccaro, who was at the Royal Inn in 1975 before moving to the Barbary Coast.
“It was a niche crowd, and it was just gamblers. By the second half, there might have been three people in the joint — me, a ticket writer and a guy sleeping at the end of the counter. It was quite different.”
Vaccaro, now an oddsmaker at the South Point, has witnessed an uneventful game explode into a major event.
A Super Bowl that resulted in a blowout and a bore this year also will be remembered as a record breaker.
Nevada’s sports book handle on Sunday’s game was $119.4 million, figures released Monday by the Gaming Control Board show, blowing away last year’s handle of $98.9 million that was the highest in Super Bowl history.
“I was pretty shocked,” MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said, echoing reactions throughout the industry. “I thought the numbers would be really good but not that high.”
The books benefited from the Seattle Seahawks’ 43-8 slaughter of the Denver Broncos, who attracted overwhelming support from the betting public. The state’s 183 books held $19.67 million, a win percentage of 16.5.
“That’s just an unbelievable number,” LVH sports book director Jay Kornegay said. “Over the past 10 years, there was never a spike like that, not even close. I’m guessing there had to be some huge wagers around town that we didn’t know about.”
But no $1 million wagers were reported. A rumor circulated about Floyd Mayweather Jr. betting $10.4 million on the Broncos, but he denied that on an Instagram post, and a source close to Mayweather said the boxer was telling the truth and did not bet on the game.
The Super Bowl handle does include all of the futures wagers the books take throughout the year, and the books held a high percentage of those bets with Seattle being among the favorites to win the National Football League title.
In-game wagering, which has increased in popularity in recent years, was a minor contributor to the $119 million total. MGM Resorts did not offer live betting lines during the game, and that feature accounted for only 1 percent to 2 percent of the handles at the LVH and South Point books.
“We actually were up about 20 percent, but the biggest bet I took was $300,000,” said Rood, who reported a significant win on the futures. “We did take a lot of six-figure bets and a lot of $50,000 and $75,000 bets.”
The win percentage, or hold, for the books was the highest for a Super Bowl since 2005 (17 percent). 2013’s win percentage was 7.3.
“It was a really good Super Bowl despite a couple of the big propositions going against us,” Kornegay said.
The betting public fared well on prop bets, especially with long-shot plays such as a safety and 2-point conversion occurring in the game.
“We had a hefty increase, but not 20 percent,” Kornegay said. “Our handle was 10 percent more than last year.”
The Broncos, who closed as 2½-point favorites, attracted approximately 65 percent of the money wagered on the side, and the books also were helped by the score going over the total of 48.
Vaccaro was most amazed by the crowds.
“I was absolutely floored by the number of people I saw coming through the sports book,” he said. “There’s probably 10 percent women in the line, and you didn’t see that way back when.
“It’s really a lot of fun if you bet on Seattle. It’s the culture we live in now. People like to bet and watch. Where does it stop?”
The Broncos, who trailed 36-0 in the third quarter, never got started. It was one of the least interesting Super Bowls in history.
“That’s the worst Super Bowl. It’s now ranked 48th out of 48,” handicapper Bruce Marshall of The Gold Sheet said. “It was just awful.”