Super Bowl 2021 Sports Betting Soars Past Last Year’s Total

Super Bowl 2021 Sports Betting Soars Past Last Year’s Total
© USA Today

Super Bowl wagering for 2021 in the aggregate will amount to the most money ever bet legally in the U.S. on a sports event, on the marquee gambling date on the calendar.

Last year, the legal Super Bowl betting handle came in between $280 million and $300 million. Although the 2021 numbers are preliminary and some states have yet to report at all, the handle is trending north of $400 million and may break the $500 million barrier. In truth, the number may never be fully known if some states decline to break out Super Bowl figures from their February monthly totals.

Informally known as Gambling’s National Holiday, Super Bowl Sunday in 2021 was obviously buoyed by the rapidly increasing number of jurisdictions that offer legal sports gambling. Super Bowl LV, with underdog Tampa Bay routing Kansas City, 31-9, kicked off with sports betting legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia. Some jurisdictions offer both online and retail sports gambling, some offer only retail betting and others only online. By the end of the year, several more states are expected to launch sports wagering.

With gambling controlled state-by-state, the financial reporting on gambling is similarly local so the results of Sunday’s wagering have been trickling out. Nevada, the traditional leader in Super Bowl wagering, seems to have held onto the top spot this year despite New Jersey having taken the lead in overall sports wagering action throughout some of the rest of the calendar.

GeoComply Data Shows Super Bowl Traffic Increases

Offering something of birds-eye view for Super Bowl LV, a report from Morgan Stanley utilizing data from GeoComply, the company that geo-locates website and app users for gambling operators, said that gambling traffic volumes increased 254% year-over-year for Super Bowl weekend. Two of the most mature online sports wagering states, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, were up more that 70%.

Not all of that weekend traffic could be attributed strictly to the Super Bowl since there were other sports being played but the football game was obviously the dominant driver. Online transactions for the weekend exceeded 32 million (about 20 million on Super Sunday itself). The weekend number was a little more than triple that of 2020.

A note about Super Bowl wagering is that many of the country’s largest sports gambling operators were beset by technical problems on Super Bowl Sunday that certainly held down some betting. Some websites experienced outages with bettors unable to get to their accounts just before the game started. How much money was lost to bookmakers will never be known but it’s certainly an important footnote when looking at the overall numbers.

And one more thing. It’s generally recognized that illegal gambling on the Super Bowl, and on sports in general, far outstrips legally wagered money. Considering that there’s no legal online sports gambling in the country’s four largest states — California, New York, Texas and Florida (nearly a third of the U.S. population) with only New York having retail bookmaking operations in some upstate casinos — it’s certainly a fair assumption that the illegal betting for this year’s Super Bowl challenged and perhaps eclipsed legally wagered amounts.

State-By-State Super Bowl Figures

Here’s a state-by-state rundown on wagering information so far (roughly in order of wagering handle).

Nevada

The Nevada Gaming Control Board figures show $136.1 million was wagered in the state’s 184 sportsbooks on this year’s Super Bowl. The unaudited figures show a win of about $12.6 million. The hold percentage was 9.2%.

Last year for Kansas City-San Francisco, the handle was $154.7 million with a $18.8 million win and 12.1% hold. The Nevada handle record was in 2018 for Philadelphia-New England $158.6 million ($1.2 million win, 0.7% hold).

Nevada’s handle for this Super Bowl should be considered decent because of a double-whammy. The COVID-19 pandemic enormously held down out-of-town tourism that would have contributed to weekend retail action. And BetMGM, one of the state’s top bookmakers, experienced technical problems at both its retail sportsbooks and with its online operations.

New Jersey

New Jersey reported a handle of $117.4 million on the Super Bowl. New Jersey sportsbooks won a net $11.3 million (about 9.6% hold), according to the Division of Gaming Enforcement.

Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board reported that preliminary figures show $53.63 million was wagered in the Commonwealth during Super Bowl weekend through retail and online sportsbooks. That was a 74% increase over wagers placed on the game last year. Revenue was about $9.4 million (17.6% hold), certainly an improvement over last year when the books actually lost about $3.3 million. In the online-retail comparison, about 89% of wagers were online.

Also, the board reported there were 320,000 unique users that logged onto online sports wagering sites in Pennsylvania on Super Bowl Sunday based on data from GeoComply. Figures from last year’s Super Bowl Sunday were 200,000 unique visitors to Pennsylvania regulated sports wagering websites. That’s online only, not counting visits to retail sportsbooks.

Illinois

Illinois saw about $46 million wagered on the Super Bowl, the vast majority ($43 million) via online betting. The bookmakers’ adjusted gross revenue was $7.7 million (about 16.7% hold). The state collected $1.15 million in tax revenue.

Gov. JB Pritzker helped that figure on Friday by extending remote registration for new sports bettors into March. Illinois law has an in-person registration requirement, but that has been suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Colorado

Figures released Tuesday by the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission show $31.2 million in total wagers, $14.3 million in future bets and $16.9 million in gameday bets.

Iowa

Super Bowl handle in Iowa was $16.3 million, according to the Iowa Gaming Association. Last year, it was $6.5 million. Revenue figures were not available.

The in-person registration requirement for Iowa ended on Jan. 1, bringing in new operators to the state and easing registration for new bettors.

Tennessee

With the all-online sports betting market live for its first Super Bowl, the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. on Wednesday reported that it had a handle of $15.4 million for the Super Bowl with payouts of $12.6 million. Tennessee's sports betting market went live on Nov. 1 with four operators. The Super Bowl figures are unaudited but will be updated in the final February sports betting report, according to the lottery.

New Hampshire

The lottery in New Hampshire estimates players wagered more than $7.1 million on the Super Bowl. Fueled by leftover love for former Patriots QB Tom Brady, who led the winning Buccaneers, 81% of the wagers were on Tampa Bay.

That was bad news for the state lottery; it paid out $8.8 million to the players, for a net loss of $1.7 million. On the brighter side for the lottery (if it could be called that), the Super Bowl betting was up by nearly $5 million compared to last year, when betting amounted to $2.31 million.

Rhode Island

Sportsbooks in Rhode Island received total wagers of $6.5 million on the Super Bowl, according to the Rhode Island Lottery. It said it is not providing payout information on individual events.

An in-person registration in the state was eliminated by legislation last year, contributing to Rhode Island seeing increased sports betting numbers.

Oregon

Super Bowl handle for Oregon is about $3.5 million with nearly $700,000 in revenue (about a 20% hold).

Delaware

Total of all wagers on the Super Bowl was $1.9 million with a win of $226,000, according to the Delaware Lottery.

In Delaware, straight wagers (off the board point spread, money line, proposition bets from the state’s three casinos) had sales of $1.4 million with a $132,000 win. A proposition parlay card (primarily for sports retailers who can only accept parlay card wagers) had sales of $264,000 with a $108,000 win. Futures wagering throughout the season (casino and sports retailers) totaled $217,000 in sales with a loss of $15,000.

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