Betting on Super Bowl Sunday for Profit
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
On Friday's our business report focuses on your money. Today, philanthropic weddings and betting on pigskin.
This Sunday the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 40. It will be a huge day for Detroit, which hosts the game, and for Las Vegas, where Super Bowl Sunday has become the most profitable day of the year for most casinos.
Joining me now is NPR's Mike Pesca. He's a reporter for NPR's DAY TO DAY and hosts a podcast for us called On Gambling. Mike, good morning.
MIKE PESCA: Hi.
WERTHEIMER: How much is bet on Sunday's game?
PESCA: In Nevada, which is the only place you can legally bet, it's close to, it approaches $100 million dollars. Last year it was $90 million, the year before that $81 million. So they may actually get to $100 million this year.
Online, there's a lot of hype, and people who run their websites say they take in more than they do, but most people say it's more than in Nevada. And if you want to talk about illegal betting, either innocent office pools or by the guys who'll break you legs, more than even those two.
WERTHEIMER: So what kind of wagers can you make?
PESCA: Well, if you have particular insight as to whether the first punt will be more or less than 42.5 yards, you can bet that. If you think the first guy who scores a touchdown will have uniform number higher than 49.5, you can bet that. And if for some bizarre reason you think the Steelers will score more points than the total score of the France-Scotland rugby match, sort of the Super Bowl of Franco-Scottish Rugby, yes, you could bet on that. Those are called prop, or proposition bets. They're exotic bets or, maybe what an expert would call Sucker Bets.
But the main way to make a bet is to use something called the spread, a term of art in gambling. And all that does is it gives the underdog a few extra points to make it more sporting. In this case, the Steelers are favored over the Seahawks; so they're saying add four points to whatever the Seahawks get, and we'll see who wins after that, once the casinos take their ten percent commission.
WERTHEIMER: Who sets the point spread, Mike?
PESCA: When we talk about the spread we say things like, they set it at four, but in this case it's actually a man. His name is Bob Skoochie(ph). He runs the sports book at the Stardust Casino, they're the first ones to put the spread up. And here's how Bob Skoochie explained to me his job.
Mr. BOB SKOOCHIE: I have a good feeling of where people are going to place their bets, on which teams they're going to place their bets. When we set the line we're not trying to predict the winner and we're not trying to predict the final score. All we're trying to do is set a number that will make both sides attractive enough to wager.
PESCA: So Skoochie says it actually never works out perfectly. So this year, he's up front that he and his casino are actually rooting for the Seahawks, because the public, even with the spread, has bet more money on the Steelers. The Steelers are just that popular.
WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much, Mike.
PESCA: You're welcome.
WERTHEIMER: Mike Pesca covers gambling in a weekly podcast for NPR. It's easy to subscribe, in fact there is a link on the NPR homepage at npr.org.