Early Super Bowl bettors back the Pack

It’s getting routine to see Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl. What’s odd about this one is the Steelers are the underdogs.

Two of the NFL’s most popular teams with the betting public are set to meet in Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6, and the early votes have been cast.

After opening lines were posted and the first wave of wagers rolled in Sunday night, Las Vegas sports books made the Green Bay Packers 2½-point favorites over the Steelers for the game in Dallas. The total ranges from 45½ to 46.

”These are two heavyweights matching up,” Las Vegas Hilton sports book director Jay Kornegay said. ”It’s going to be a very attractive game to watch and wager on.”

The Steelers, in the Super Bowl for the third time in six years, were favored in their victories in 2006 and 2009.

But after winning playoff games at Chicago, Atlanta and Philadelphia the past three weeks, the Packers won more affection from bettors and oddsmakers.

”I do think the Packers deserve to be favored,” said Mike Colbert, the
M Resort sports book director for Cantor Gaming.

The Packers were 3½-point favorites in their 21-14 victory over the Bears in the NFC title game on Sunday. The Steelers closed as 4-point favorites in a 24-19 victory over the New York Jets for the AFC championship.

Soon after MGM Resorts posted the Packers as slight Super Bowl favorites, sports book director Jay Rood was seeing one-sided action.

”The first five plays were all on Green Bay at five figures,” Rood said. ”We’re going to sit at 2½. I’ve got to believe we’ll get some Pittsburgh money.

”It’s a good Super Bowl to book at that price because you’re just handicapping who you think is going to win. It kind of takes the number out of the equation.”

This marks the first time since 1983 that the Super Bowl point spread is lower than a field goal. Miami was a 2-point favorite in a 27-17 loss to Washington in Super Bowl XVII.

The Packers-Steelers showdown, which pits two of the league’s hottest quarterbacks in Roethlisberger and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, should result in a near-record wagering handle for the state.

The Nevada handle was $82.7 million for last year’s Super Bowl, in which the underdog New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts, 31-17.

”I think this is the best matchup. I would be surprised if we don’t top last year’s handle,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, director of operations for Lucky’s sports books.

Vaccaro and Rood said they project the state’s handle to approach about
$90 million.

In 2006, when Pittsburgh beat Seattle 21-10, a state-record $94.5 million was wagered on the Super Bowl, an event which always generates rampant wagering with hundreds of proposition bets available on the board.

”Even though the economy is not as strong as it was in 2006, I definitely know we’re going to surpass last year at $82 million. That’s safe to say,” Kornegay said. ”Will it be a record? I’m not sure.”

Colbert was prepared to fire a bolder statement.

”I’m going to predict it’s a record. If I had to bet yes or no, I’d say yes, it’s going to be a record,” Colbert said. ”I’m not sure you could match up two better teams from a betting standpoint.”

Although the public has been rewarded for backing the Packers in the playoffs, laying points against the Steelers is tougher to do.

”It’s not a bargain anymore,” Vaccaro said. ”I don’t think you can make a super-strong case on this game with the Packers.”

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at or 702-387-2907.


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