It was a boring game, and watching the replay would be a treatment for insomnia, but Super Bowl 50 will be remembered as a win for Peyton Manning and for producing a record wagering handle in Nevada.
A total of $132.5 million was wagered at the state’s 194 sports books on Sunday’s game, according to figures released by the Nevada Gaming Control Board. The books showed a win of $13.3 million for a hold percentage of 10.1.
“I see this stuff and I just marvel how it keeps getting bigger,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, a Las Vegas oddsmaker since the mid-1970s.
Manning and the Denver Broncos closed as 5-point underdogs in a 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers. In what was likely the last game of his NFL career, the 39-year-old Manning became the oldest starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl.
But the Denver defense did more to impact the outcome and deliver the cash to crowds of bettors who made a late rush to support the underdog. The Panthers received a majority of the early wagering action before a dramatic change.
Bookmakers emerged on the winning side, as usual, but Vaccaro said the South Point book showed a hold of only around 2 percent.
“We won a ham sandwich with no mustard on it,” Vaccaro said. “We were $500,000 high on Carolina on Friday, but by Sunday we needed Carolina. It was a dominant ticket count for Denver from Saturday to kickoff.”
Westgate sports book director Jay Kornegay said 57 percent of the tickets written were on the Panthers. But the betting public took a significant bite out of the books’ hold percentage by playing the Broncos to win on the money line at plus-180.
“We had a line of people cashing here all day from 7 a.m. to 4 o’clock, and it finally subsided,” Kornegay said early Monday evening. “But we did very well on the game across the board. We did well to props, futures, halftime and in-progress wagering.”
The public scored big wins on at least two propositions. Denver linebacker Von Miller cashed as the Most Valuable Player at odds between 12-1 and 60-1, and a successful 2-point conversion cashed at plus-300 on a Manning pass with 3:08 remaining.
Two years ago, when Manning and the Broncos were blown out by Seattle, the state’s handle peaked at $119.4 million. The books held $19.67 million for a win percentage of 16.5.
Last year, when the New England Patriots beat the Seahawks 28-24 in a down-to-the-wire thriller, the state’s handle was almost $116 million. The books won more than $3.2 million for a hold percentage of 2.8.
“I have never witnessed what I saw Sunday,” Vaccaro said. “I’ve never seen that many people trying to get to the window. You could just feel this was going to be a huge handle.”
There were about 20 betting windows open Sunday at the South Point, and each had a Disney World-type line. Vaccaro said a woman known for efficient ticket production completed a 10-hour shift by writing 1,900 tickets. That might be a record, too.
The state blew away the previous record handle without the boost of the multiple $1 million wagers that showed up on the Strip in 2014.
MGM Resorts book director Jay Rood said the biggest bet at his 12 properties was for an amount “just shy” of $1 million on the Panthers. Nick Bogdanovich, the William Hill book director, said he took a money-line bet on Carolina for more than $600,000.
There were some winning gamblers. Jason Simbal, vice president of CG Technology books, said the biggest bet he booked was for $600,000 on the Broncos. John Avello of the Wynn Las Vegas said he took a bet for $500,000 on Denver.
“Sports betting just keeps getting more and more popular,” Kornegay said.
The Panthers winning but not covering the point spread would have been the ideal scenario for most bookmakers, who were not complaining about the results. Carolina’s loss, coupled with the score staying under the closing total of 43½, foiled enough parlays to help almost all Las Vegas books show at least a small win on the game.
Denver’s defensive performance was something to admire, but most football fans were complaining about the game’s lack of entertainment. Even the commercials and the halftime show were disappointing.
Both quarterbacks were going down, and going down hard. Manning, who was sacked five times, passed for 141 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. The teams combined for six turnovers and converted just 4 of 29 third downs.
Kornegay, who’s a Broncos fan, said, “I know when it’s a defensive battle, people are going to characterize it as a boring and ugly game, and I agree.”