02/10/2011 3:01PM

Bookmakers's bottom line on Super Bowl not as bad as feared


LAS VEGAS – The confetti hadn’t stopped falling on the Packers’ celebration of their 31-25 victory over the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV when speculation started about whether it was a winning or losing day for the bookies.

The widespread opinion going into the game was that the worst-case scenario would be if the Packers covered the consensus 2 1/2-point spread and the game went over the total that had fluctuated between 44 and 46 1/2. Favorite/over is usually a lethal combo for the books in everyday wagering, but it’s magnified on an event like the Super Bowl.

Well, that’s exactly what happened, and the online community was atwitter with reports coming from sports books directors here in the legal books of Las Vegas reporting losses due to the Packers/over combo and several plus-money props cashing.

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When the confetti had settled and the sports books gave their figures to the state’s Gaming Control Board, the reports of the sports books’ demise were premature as Nevada showed a profit of $724,176 from an overall handle of $87,491,098. Of course, considering there are 183 sports books in Nevada, that comes to an average profit of less than $4,000 per book. Obviously a lot of books did lose money on their overall bottom line, but it wasn’t as bad as many believed.

The encouraging sign for the books was there was a nearly $5 million increase in handle over last year’s $82,726,367 though they fell short of the record $94,534,372 in 2006 when the Steelers beat the Seahawks before the recession hit. The four biggest Super Bowl handles were between 2003 and 2006, so this year’s ranked fifth all-time as it was bigger than any before or since that run. And obviously it was better than 2008 when the state’s books actually lost more than $2.5 million when the Giants upset the Patriots, 17-14. That was Nevada’s only other losing Super Bowl since the 49ers’ 49-26 spread-covering win over the Chargers in 1995, and the books avoided added a third to that list.

Super Bowl XLV betting recap

After a slow start in the first couple of series, the Packers got on the board first when Jordy Nelson (10-1 to score the first touchdown) caught a 29-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers with 4:33 remaining in the first quarter.

Slightly more than a minute later, Nick Collins intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown. That made it 14-0 and pretty much guaranteed that the Steelers would have to go to more of a passing game in hopes of rallying. The defensive touchdown, offered at around +140 or odds of 7-5, also hurt the books because it’s a popular bet from the Vegas visitors. Things didn’t look any better for the books as the Steelers rallied – and the Packers continued to put up points.

The books got a brief glimmer of hope when the Steelers trailed 21-17 and Shane Suisham was sent out to attempt a 52-yard field goal with 4:35 left in the third quarter. The best-case scenario for them would have been a Packers’ win without covering (such as 21-20) so they would win the spread bets while not paying off on the Steelers money line of around +120.

But Suisham missed badly. The scoring did slow down and sat at 21-17 for more than 13 minutes until the Packers went up 28-17 on Rodgers’s 8-yard TD pass to Greg Jennings with 11:57 to play in the game. The Steelers marched right back with a seven-play, 66-yard drive that ended with a Roethlisberger-to-Mike Wallace 25-yard TD pass that put the game over all available totals. Adding insult to injury for the books was the fact the Steelers converted the 2-point conversion (another popular prop that paid around 9-2) to make the score 28-25.

If that had been the final, that could have spelled disaster for some books that had used Packers -3 and received the money they were hoping for on the Steelers to balance their books a little more, but were looking at having to refund all bets on that number if it stayed that way. The late Green Bay field goal by Mason Crosby to make the score 31-25 actually helped those books while also minimizing the chance that the game could have gone to overtime (an 8-1 proposition that has yet to burn the books).

Race book notes

The Orleans is hosting the Horseplayer World Series next Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 17-19. Like the Daily Racing Form /NTRA National Handicapping Championship, qualifying tournaments have been held at racetracks, OTBs, casinos, and websites throughout the past year, but unlike the NHC, you can still buy in for $1,000. Contestants make 15 mythical $20 win-and place bets each day. The champion receives 45 percent of the entry fees (an estimated $270,000 based on 600 entries) with prizes paid through 60th place. For more details, go to coastrace.com

◗ With football season over, the Las Vegas Hilton is resuming its Super Saturdays contest in two weeks, Feb. 26. The entry fee is $30 (maximum three per person) and each makes six mythical $100 win-and-place bets from designated contest tracks.

◗ The first parimutuel pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager will be next weekend. You can download the latest fixed future-book odds from the Wynn Las Vegas, Lucky’s Race & Sports Books, and the Hilton at ViewFromVegas.com on the “Race Book Notes” page.