Updated on 09/17/2011 10:48AM

Raider money was a no-show


Betting handle on the Super Bowl may approach a record when the Nevada Gaming Control Board releases its figures later this week, but the game won't result in a record win for the books.

Las Vegas bookmakers, most of whom are forbidden from talking about specific dollar amounts with the media, estimated a 10 percent rise in handle compared to last year, when $71.5 million was wagered legally on the Super Bowl in Nevada. The final figure might approach the record $77.2 million bet on the Broncos-Packers Super Bowl in 1998, but the state's profits might also mirror that year's results. Despite the high handle in 1998, the state ended up with a profit of just $472,033 or slightly more than 0.6 percent. All of the bookmakers surveyed classified this year's game as "break even," a "small winner" or a "small loser."

Hours after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 48-21 win over the Oakland Raiders, Las Vegas sports books still had a steady stream of people cashing their bets, most of which were wagered on the underdog Bucs. The Raiders had opened between a 3 1/2- and 5-point favorite, and the odds went up after last week's conference championship games and the line settled at 4 all over town. As the weekend approached, most bookmakers reported about a 2-1 ratio in money on the Buccaneers, but they held the line because the conventional wisdom was that the weekend tourist crowd would bet the favored Raiders and balance the action.

It never happened.

Bettors back Bucs

As Sunday progressed, books up and down the Strip lowered the line to 3 1/2 only to find the bettors kept taking the Bucs. The same thing happened with the money line. Bookmakers know from experience that bettors love taking the Super Bowl underdog to win straight up (as happened last year with the Patriots over the Rams), so they shaded the odds artificially low with bettors laying an average of only -180 (bet $1.80 to win $1) on the Raiders and getting about +160 (bet $1 to win $1.60) on the Buccaneers. Even though the value appeared on the Raiders' side with the short price, bettors continued to pound the Bucs on the money line, driving it down to +130 at some books.

"Most bookmakers were fooled by the anticipation of Raider money," said Jay Kornegay of the Imperial Palace. "Raider Nation never showed up with their money, or else they spent it on their game garb."

Kornegay also referred to a 3-year-old maiden claimer who was the morning-line favorite in the sixth race at Golden Gate on Sunday, about two hours before game time. The horse's name: Raider Nation.

"He finished out of the money," Kornegay said. "That probably wasn't a good omen."

Some sharp bettors also cleaned up at books that offered split lines on the game. For instance, those who really liked the Bucs were able to get approximately 2-1 on the Bucs if they were willing to lay 3 1/2 points, 3-1 if they took the Bucs -7 1/2 or 4-1 if they foresaw a Bucs blowout and laid 10 1/2. Since very few people were willing to lay higher odds on the Raiders at those spreads, the books gave away a lot of their profits on those wagers.

Scoring frenzy bails out bookies

It wasn't all bad news for the bookies.

The majority of the money came in on the under, which hovered at 44 most of the weeks. Several books lowered it to 43 1/2, and several sports book directors used the word "disaster" to describe what would have happened if the game ended Bucs/under because of all the parlays that were bet with that combination. Bettors also lost overall on teasers when the game went way over the total (only Bucs/over teasers were winners, while Bucs/under, Raiders/over, and Raiders/under all lost) and on parlay cards (especially the "tie lose" cards, on which everyone who played over/under 3 field goals or over/under 5 sacks lost as those fell on the number, killing a lot of cards).

The books also fared well overall on proposition wagers as the handle continues to rise on those fun bets (approaching 50 percent of the handle at some books), and the house generally holds a decent percentage.

Interesting propositions

Yao Ming was used by several casinos in their "hybrid" prop bets in which they mix bets between different sports on Super Bowl Sunday. Results of those bets depended on where you made them. At the Stardust, the Bucs' total points were a half-point favorite over Ming's points plus rebounds. Ming had 14 points and 8 rebounds vs. the Bulls on Sunday for a total of 22, but that came up short vs. the Bucs' total of 48. However, the Imperial Palace and Caesars Palace pitted Ming's points and rebounds vs. the Raiders' total points. Ming's 22 beat the Raiders' 21 point without even needing the 5 1/2 points the Raiders were laying in that prop.

The prop that attracts the most money every year is the first player to score a touchdown. Midway through the second quarter and with the ball on the Raider 21-yard line, the Bucs' Michael Pittman, who was at about 20-1 at most sports books, broke into the open and appeared headed for the end zone. He was tackled at the 2. From there, Mike Alstott, the third choice at 6-1 at most books, scored two plays later to get the money.

A popular play for bettors was whether Raiders' receiver Jerry Rice would score a touchdown. He didn't do much all game, but then scored in the fourth quarter. Also, Raiders' receiver Jerry Porter was bet to score a touchdown, and he got one on the play in which the referee gave him the catch after a coach's challenge.

"The bettors have their bad beats, but we get our share, too," Kornegay said. "But those kind of results are what keep people interested the whole game, especially in blowouts like this. They're a a lot of fun."

One prop that didn't go the players' way was Warren Sapp over/under 2 1/2 tackles. The bet had a disclaimer that sacks do not count, but some bettors who saw Sapp have two late tackles plus a sack assumed they were winners.

That's a good segue into reminding everyone to double-check the official box score before throwing out any tickets you assume are losers. Two years ago, a lot of people who had bet Ray Lewis would have under 7 tackles saw a TV graphic near the end of the game saying he had 11. It turned out that the official scoring had Lewis with only five.

This year, if you have a ticket on "will there be a missed field goal attempt?" and assumed it was a missed attempt when the Bucs' Tom Tupa dropped the snap and Martin Gramatica fell on the ball, think again. Since Gramatica didn't kick the ball, it didn't count against his stats and he's officially listed as 2 for 2 (the Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski was 1 for 1, so there was no missed FG attempt).

But it can pay to check all the results, especially when obscure scoring calls are involved.