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July 24, 2016

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Super Bowl 50 brought big volume, modest win to Las Vegas sports books

Von Miller’s MVP award, Peyton Manning’s two-point conversion damaged bottom line

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Steve Marcus

Denver Broncos fan Guillermo Dominguez of Denver celebrates as he watches Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in the Westgate Super Book. His daughter, Amanda Dominguez, applauds at right.

Super Bowl 50 at Westgate

Marc Z (no last name given) of Chicago displays his betting tickets as he watches Super Bowl 50 in the Westgate Super Book Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. Launch slideshow »

Super Bowl 50

Denver Broncos Peyton Manning celebrates after the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game Carolina Panthers Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. The Broncos won 24-10. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) Launch slideshow »

Denver defeating Carolina in a low-scoring Super Bowl 50 would have registered as an ideal result for Nevada sports books a few days ago.

That changed leading up to kickoff Sunday afternoon in Santa Clara, Calif. Casinos will experience no major financial windfall in the wake of the Broncos overcoming their status as 5.5-point underdogs to defeat the Panthers 24-10.

“Denver moneyline and under must have been the play of the day at the coffee shop,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, veteran bookmaker at South Point. “For the last six or eight hours this morning, everyone at the window was passing up the points and taking Denver to win. That made it a wash for us.”

Nevada sports books are virtually guaranteed to post a profit on the Super Bowl for the 25th time in the past 27 years, since the state’s gaming control board began compiling the data. But the house won’t rake anywhere near the record $19.6 million and 16.5 hold percentage it recorded two years ago.

The totals might come closer to three years ago, when the state’s 191 sports books made $7.2 million for a hold of 7 percent.

“It wasn’t a perfect result,” said Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading at William Hill sports books. “But it was a good-enough result. We just really needed to avoid Carolina covering and the over.”

They were hardly ever threatened with either of those scenarios. The Panthers, which were as high as 6-point favorites in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, never held a lead.

Defense dictated the contest, allowing gamblers who wagered on the under 45 points to collect comfortably. Denver linebacker Von Miller recorded six tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles to become the 10th defensive Super Bowl MVP, which cost William Hill dearly.

Nevada’s largest sports book operator opened odds on Miller to win the MVP at 40-to-1, and closed at 15-to-1 after printing 350 tickets on him.

“They made a good call on that one,” Bogdanovich said. “There were a lot of happy bettors.”

That wasn’t what hurt the worst, though. William Hill’s most popularly bet proposition was the one asking bettors if there would be a two-point conversion, with 96 percent of the action coming in on the “yes.”

Peyton Manning’s successful conversion pass to Bennie Fowler with three minutes remaining had bookmakers across the state cursing.

“That was the worst one, but there were some other bad ones,” Bogdanovich said. “About seven or eight of the biggest ones came in. I’d guess it’s only a small win on the props.”

No sports book directors were complaining about the volume of bets. Casinos were slammed all weekend with patrons looking to bet on the game.

The previous record of $119.4 million wagered on Super Bowl 48 appears in imminent danger.

“It doesn’t even sound realistic, but we had 25 windows open between the sports book, the race book and the ballrooms and there were never less than 10 people in a line all day,” Vaccaro said. “I’ve never seen so many people. I would bet record.”

Bogdanvoich added, “I’d be shocked if we didn’t go over the record. We’re going to fly over it.”

The casinos’ celebrations would have been bigger if Carolina found a way to win while Denver sneaked in beneath the point spread, but in the end, they’ll still come out ahead for the eighth consecutive year.

“I’ve been in this racket long enough to know there’s nothing you can do about it,” Vaccaro said. “You want to win them all big but you understand you can’t. Up until this morning, we needed Denver for a sizable portion but we couldn’t stop people from betting them.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or case.keefer@lasvegassun.com. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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