This time a year ago, the New England Patriots were favored by 7 points against their NFC opponent in the Super Bowl.
In Las Vegas betting shops, the money line attached to the Patriots was inordinately low for a 7-point favorite — in the range of minus-220 rather than the minus-330 neighborhood usually seen on a team favored by a touchdown.
The reason for this “sale price” on the favorite was a flood of money at the betting windows from the “public” — casual, unsophisticated gamblers — on the underdog to win the game outright.
As a result, disregarding proposition wagers, there were only three “correct” ways to bet the side in the Super Bowl: laying 7 points with the favorite, taking 7 with the underdog, or playing the favorite on the money line.
If you played the underdog on the money line, you were cheating yourself. It’s difficult enough to beat this game (sports betting, not the Super Bowl) without shortchanging yourself by taking only plus-180, plus-200, even plus-220 on solid 7-point underdogs.
How appropriate that it’s Groundhog Day, as bettors this week are seeing a virtual replay of last year’s Super Bowl favorite, point spread and money line dynamics.
The Patriots are again a solid 7-point favorite, this time against the Philadelphia Eagles. The money line on the Patriots stood at about minus-260 in Las Vegas sports books early in the week — and the city’s leading oddsmaker said he expects it to drop as the big weekend approaches.
“I think that money line will come down from the 260s, 270s to as low as minus 220 (on the favorite), plus 180 (on the underdog),” said Kenny White, the top oddsmaker at Las Vegas Sports Consultants, the company that provides betting lines to most of the state’s casinos.
In a typical regular-season NFL game lined at 7 points, the money line on the favorite would be about minus-330; the money line on the underdog about plus-250, according to Stardust sports book director Bob Scucci.
But the Super Bowl is a special case — as the most heavily bet sporting event each year, it attracts more than enough cash to play havoc with money lines. The handle on last year’s Super Bowl exceeded $81 million in Nevada sports books, a record high, according to the state Gaming Control Board.
So many bettors will “blindly” bet Philadelphia on the money line — meaning they’ll walk up to the window and say they want to bet the Eagles to win the game, regardless of point spreads or odds — that sports books will again be forced to adjust the money line, White said.
“The public loves to see that ‘plus,’ ” on money lines, White said. “When they see a plus, they’re going to take it.”
Ever since the Patriots opened as a 6 1/2-point Super Bowl favorite on some early lines after they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC championship game and the Eagles defeated the Atlanta Falcons for the NFC title, sports books have taken mostly New England money, White said.
“The early trend was that we saw a lot of Patriots money, although it has started to swing, with some Eagles money trickling in,” White said.
Although much of the “sharp” money bet by professional gamblers will be on the Eagles, and will likely be bet later in the week, White said, the point spread is likely to remain at 7, as the Super Bowl is one of the few betting events in which the amount of sharp money is dwarfed by the amount of public money wagered.
If the line does move off 7, in fact, White thinks it’s more likely to go to 6 1/2 in response to Philly money as game day draws closer rather than to 7 1/2 due to an overload of Patriots money.
“It doesn’t look like it’s going to come off 7,” White said. “The books could go into the game needing the Eagles (to cover), but I do not think it will go higher than 7.”
A similar dichotomy can be found in over/under wagering on the Super Bowl, with public money on the “over” dueling with sharp money on the “under.”
The total on the game was sitting at 47 1/2 or 48 points across Las Vegas early this week, with a stray 48 1/2 popping up briefly in a couple of spots.
“The wise guys like the under in this poker online game,” White said. “I’m hearing there’s a lot of sharp money on the under. But betting on the total has been pretty balanced because the general public is overwhelmingly on the over. The general public doesn’t want to watch a game and root for no scoring.”
Among proposition bets on the Super Bowl, some professional bettors have been playing a special point spread of the Eagles plus 3 1/2 points, plus-140 or so, White said.
“When they see a team that has the ability to win the game, and they’re getting the points and they’re getting plus-money, the wise guys will take that all day long,” White said.