Like a safety in the Super Bowl? Stand in line in Vegas
By TIM DAHLBERG AP Sports Writer
Published: Jan 23, 2015 at 4:01 PM PST
LAS VEGAS (AP) - For some bettors, there's just not much value picking either the New England Patriots or Seattle Seahawks in a Super Bowl that is a tossup almost everywhere in this gambling city.
But betting on whether the Patriots run more plays than the number of shots Tiger Woods takes in the final round of the Phoenix Open? Now that's something both golf and football fans can enjoy putting a little action on.
Proposition bets will be huge once again in Nevada's legal sports books, where bettors can wager on anything from the jersey number of the player who scores the first touchdown to how far the longest kickoff return will be (over/under is 28.5 yards).
And, of course, the ever-popular bet on whether the first score of the game will be a safety. That one exploded on the bookies last year when the Seahawks scored a safety on Denver's first offensive play of the game.
"The game was five minutes old and we were already down $130,000," said Nick Bogdanovich, the oddsmaker for the William Hill US chain of sports books. "That was a disaster."
Not so much of a disaster, though, that the bookies didn't come back to score some big wins of their own. A Seattle blowout of the favored Broncos helped legal sports books make nearly $20 million on record wagering of $119.4 million on the game.
Bettors will win some of this year's props, too, and in a game that is basically a tossup they might get more action than usual. William Hill lists 690 different prop bets, ranging from the mundane (total points scored, 48.5 over/under) to the more exotic (Number of goals in the Barcelona/Villarreal soccer match).
Number of tackles by New England's Devin McCourty? There's a prop for that, with an over/under of four.
Think Tom Brady will throw more touchdown passes than the Minnesota Wild scores goals on Sunday? There's a prop for that, too, with the Wild a 3-2 favorite.
Or, on the more esoteric side, how about the number of goals in the World's Men's Handball Championship in Qatar versus the total receiving yards by Seattle's Doug Baldwin (11-10 odds, with handball minus 1.5 goals)?
"A lot of people have to have action throughout the game," Bogdanovich said. "As soon as the game starts they're cashing tickets. Every five minutes there's a prop decided."
So-called prop bets have proven lucrative in Nevada's legal sports books since their debut in the 1990s, and oddsmakers spend days following the conference championship games trying to come up with as many as they can. The only limit is Nevada betting regulations that restrict any sports book bets on things that actually happen on the field of play.
That includes the opening coin flip, which can be bet even up with a bet of $102 for a $100 payoff at the Westgate LV Superbook. But the Nevada books can't offer the more bizarre bets put up by online books that include everything from the color of Bill Belichick's hoodie (gray is a prohibitive favorite) to whether Katy Perry will wear a skirt/dress or pants during the halftime show (skirt/dress is a 4-5 favorite).
Betting at the online books is illegal in the U.S., but that hasn't stopped online bookie Bovada from putting up those odds. Those who can bet at Bovada can also wager on whether Idina Menzel will forget or omit a word in the national anthem (6-1 odds against) or the number of times "deflated balls" will be referred to in the NBC broadcast (over/under is 2.5).
For the prop bets you can legally wager on, though, the safety (1-7 against and 5-1 in favor) will almost surely be the most popular. That's after bookies took a beating in the past two Super Bowls, where the safety was the last score in one game and the first in the other.
"I'm not going to say it's a sore subject with us but it has become the most bet prop on the board," said the Westgate's Jay Kornegay. "It's guaranteed we're going to have some liability attached to that one come the day of the game."