The History of Super Bowl Betting: How the Big Game Has Evolved as a Betting Event

Without question, the Super Bowl is the most attention-gathering annual event in the US. For comparison-sake, around fifteen million Americans watched the Academy Awards in 2022. And Super Bowl LVI that same year accumulated an audience of 208 million-plus viewers based on data from Nielsen and various complement measurement sources. Thus, it is no secret that the championship game of the NFL season is the most massive event across the media landscape every year.

And, after the fall of the Professional Amateur and Sports Protection Act in 2018, interest in it has skyrocketed to previously unimaginable heights. That is so because prior to the repeal of this federal ban on sports betting, the practice of wagering on sporting events was only legal in Nevada at retail outlets. Now US states have a choice regarding allowing this pastime to their residents. Over thirty regions have done so, with over twenty hosting Super Bowl betting sites.

In 2022, the American Gaming Association (AGA) projected that 31.4 US citizens would bet on Super Bowl 56, wagering a combined $7.6 billion. That is a jump of 78% concerning the estimated value of bets placed on the 2021 championship match. It stands to reason that the 2023 figure will likely eclipse last year’s one, as several more states like Kansas, Maine, and Massachusetts legalized sportsbooks in 2022. However, betting on the Super Bowl is not something that has garnered no mainstream attention before 2018. It was a note of conversation since the league got birthed and 1967 when the Bowl became the official term for the NFL championship game. That was when the National Football League merged with the competing American Football League (AFL) in 1966. So, below, a guide gets presented on the evolution of betting on this event throughout its almost six-decade existence.

History of Super Bowl Odds & Betting

As discussed above, nationwide sports betting became a possibility in 2018. Nonetheless, Nevada legalized gambling in 1931, including sports and horse race wagering, for decades, remaining the only territory that allowed these activities. So, Super Bowl betting has been an option in the Battle Born state since the event debuted, and illegal bookies have taken wagers on it since its inception. The AGA, even today, believes that somewhere around sixty-three billion dollars in bets get placed at offshore sportsbooks every year. Plus, billions more get laid down at backroom parlors in the US. That means the sports betting black market is alive and well and has been actively operating in the Land of the Free from when it got founded.

Going by available data, in 1967, at Super Bowl 1, most Vegas bookies had the Green Bay Packers as the favorites, listing the spread at -14. The Packers got again favored the following year when the average total got posted at 43 and the spread at -13.5.

In the league’s history, there have been seven franchises that have won back-to-back championships, and traditionally, they have always have gotten favored by bookmakers to repeat their previously accomplished feet.

Most football fans and pundits consider the New York Jets’ victory in Super Bowl 3 as the most significant underdog win in an NFL final, as most had them as 19 1⁄2 underdogs. But, the most historic and heroic comeback win is for sure, New England Patriots’ triumph in Super Bowl 51, as they got listed as high as +1,600 to complete their game turnaround and lift the Vince Lombardy trophy in 2017 in a game watched by 113 million people in the US.

Interesting Super Bowl Bits of Betting Trivia

Given that fifty-six NFL finals have transpired, it stands to reason that these matches have yielded various compelling data on and off the field. Regarding betting info, here are some of the more fascinating pieces of data accumulated over the years.

Super Bowl favorites have a 64.2% straight-up success rate, but this percentage dips to 51% when one looks at the spread. The totals are a wash, with the over maintaining a slight edge over the under in NFL championship games. Super Bowls 31 and 41 (Packers-Patriots and Rams-Titans) are famous for recording dramatic point-spread pushes. In 1997, Green Bay was a fourteen-point favorite against New England, winning 35-21 and becoming the first team to push the closing spread. In 2000, the same thing happened again, as Los Angeles were seven-point favorites over Tennessee and won 23-16. Note that the most sizeable point spreads recorded in Super Bowl games were in the third and twenty-ninth events, and the lowest got notched in the sixteen and forty-ninth. Also, four teams have won the Vince Lombardy trophy but have not covered the spread. These are the 49ers, the Cowboys, the Patriots (twice), and the Steelers (twice). The Packers and the Steelers also have the honor of being the lowest seeds to cover the spread.

Famous Super Bowl Bets

In 2022, Nevada reported the highest sports betting handle for Super Bowl 56 at $178.8 million, with New Jersey coming in second place, announcing a handle of $143.7 million for the game. That signifies that people still go to America’s top two gambling hubs to bet on sports, despite online options.

In the past few years, social media has become a place where celebrities brag about risky gambles they make at sporting events. Some of the more infamous such boasts include Hall of Fame boxer Floyd Mayweather wagering $13 million on the Denver Broncos to win Super Bowl XLVIII (which they lost). And Canadian music artist Drake wagering $1.25 million in crypto on the Rams and Odell Beckham Jr. getting 62.5 receiving yards in Super Bowl 56.

Aside from who wins the game and what the score will be, sportsbooks are also notorious for supplying a wide range of weird prop markets. These include the over/under on how long the national anthem will go, who will win the coin toss, how many songs the halftime show will feature, what color the winning Gatorade shower will be, and more. Naturally, who will snag the MVP award is the prop bet that sees the most action at retail kiosks and betting sites every Super Bowl.