Football’s $6 Billion Play

Super Bowl 49 is in the books and years from now people won’t be talking about Tom Brady’s four touchdown passes and third MVP Award. They won’t be talking about the Patriots winning their fourth Super Bowl title in 14 years. What they will be talking about is “The Call,” Seattle’s inexplicable decision to pass from the 1-yard line instead of giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch. As most of you saw, New England’s Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson’s pass. Game over.


How big was that interception? In monetary terms, it’s not far fetched to believe that play resulted in a swing of roughly $6 billion. Yes, billion.

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According to the American Gaming Association, the money wagered legally on sports in the state of Nevada is roughly 1 percent of all money wagered on sports. Considering that $100 million is bet on the Super Bowl in Nevada, it’s not entirely unreasonable to estimate that roughly $10 billion is wagered on the game, and the number of bets that were impacted by Seattle’s odd play-calling is enormous.

While the total on the game had been decided and went over, the most common wager, the point spread bet, was still in the balance. If Seattle scores and wins, the Seahawks cover the spread. They didn’t score, so New England covered the spread and that’s just the beginning.

A number of parlays were also decided on that interception and every teaser became a winner, no matter what you bet. If you bet New England and over, you won. If you bet Seattle and under, you won. Had the Seahawks scored, those who had teased the total to under would have been losers.

Proposition betting has become big business in the Super Bowl and according to many sportsbook managers accounts for roughly one-third of their total wagers on the game. While most of the prop bets had long-been decided, the interception did change some of those, including MVP, which went to Tom Brady instead of Lynch, who would have gotten it had he scored the game-winning touchdown. Others wagers impacted were whether or not Wilson threw an interception, would there be more points scored in the first half or second half, would the game end with a quarterback kneel, and some others.

One area where the swing of events had a huge impact was in all the different office pools, including the always-popular box pool. Let’s face it, if you were sitting with Seattle “1” and New England “8” you had to feeling pretty good when the Seahawks were on the 1-yard line and were probably already planning on what you would buy first.

The end result wasn’t quite what the sportsbooks were hoping for, but they can certainly live with it. While seeing Seattle win and the game falling under the total would have been the ideal result, many sportsbooks managed to hold their own and their losses will be minimal. While the betting public was on New England and the over, the wise guys were taking Seattle and the under. In a typical game, the sportsbooks would be rooting for the public, but for the Super Bowl, the amount of money that the “public” wagers is greater than that of the sharp players. So while the sportsbooks lost in that regard, they also know that they’ll eventually have a much easier time recouping their losses from the public than they would getting money back from the sharps.


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