Published Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015 | 9:20 p.m.
Updated Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015 | 10:57 p.m.
Malcolm Butler intercepted more than the ball when he made the game-sealing takeaway in Super Bowl 49.
The New England Patriots’ undrafted rookie free agent may have also sliced deeply into Las Vegas sports books' profit on the game, and perhaps even prevented Nevada for posting a win for the seventh consecutive year.
Casinos desperately needed to avoid the combination of the Patriots winning and the final score going over 47.5 points, or in other words, the exact result of New England’s 28-24 victory over Seattle in Glendale, Ariz.
“That was our one losing scenario,” said Nick Bogdanovich, William Hill sports books’ director of trading. “We had a big start with the futures, so it’s going to be close but the game couldn’t have been worse.”
An hour after the final second ticked off the clock, Bogdanovich was left pondering the same question as football fans across the country: Why would Seattle throw the ball at the 1-yard-line with 20 seconds and a timeout left?
He spoke in a monotone, unable to comprehend any reasonable explanation.
“I don’t know what everyone else thought but I was sitting with 11 guys and 11 guys didn’t say a word,” Bogdanovich described the scene in William Hill’s war room. “We just sat there with our jaws dropped. It’s just dumb that they wouldn’t run Marshawn Lynch.”
Ballrooms full of bettors at South Point sprung to their feet and celebrated, according to legendary bookmaker and sports book spokesman Jimmy Vaccaro, when Butler jumped Seattle receiver Ricardo Lockette’s route and intercepted Russell Wilson’s pass.
The mood on the house’s side was subdued, as South Point got swarmed with parlays tying a New England win to the over. Every teaser, a bet where gamblers can shift the point spread or total by six or seven points either way, also cashed to put a dent in sports books’ bottom line.
Vaccaro reported that he had never seen a day of betting as busy as Sunday throughout his 40 years in the industry. Although overall handle was much lower as recently as last night, the action picked up Sunday morning.
“We had 20 betting stations spread throughout our ballrooms open and there was never, ever less than 15 people in line for seven hours straight,” Vaccaro said.
South Point’s betting volume was down 5 percent from last year’s Super Bowl that set the state record with $119.4 million despite the late cash-swell. William Hill actually increased their handle by 10 percent from 2014.
Both had no further information beyond their own shops, but guessed that the statewide handle would eclipse $100 million to become the second-most wagered game of all-time.
“We got a lot of money late,” Bogdanovich said. “There was quite a bit of Seattle money late, but obviously, we were still a little bit high on New England.”
If sports books collectively post a win, it will be minimal and entirely because of proposition wagers. Vaccaro expected South Point to come out slightly ahead because of the sum of hundreds of betting options.
Gamblers gorged on bets calling for a safety, two-point conversion or overtime. It was a major windfall that none of them occurred.
William Hill barely stayed in the black, not hauling in as much on the props. A handful of props hurt William Hill, including almost any involving Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady who completed 37 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns.
Brady’s totals at William Hill opened at 25.5 completions, 260.5 yards and 1.5 touchdown passes. His two turnovers were just as damaging, as bettors popularly took the over 1.5 interceptions in the game.
“They bet it like they knew there was going to be plenty of interceptions,” Bogdanovich said. “We won some really good ones, but we lost some really bad ones.”
None of it would have mattered to the house if Butler didn’t snatch the interception. Oddsmakers believe an easy win would have materialized for 22nd time in 25 years, since the Nevada Gaming Control Board began tracking statewide Super Bowl betting, if the Seahawks fed Lynch at the goal line.
“He was getting four or five yards every time they handed him the ball,” Vaccaro said. “They threw the pass and I can’t imagine what they were doing. (Seattle coach) Pete Carroll is going to be second-guessed forever.”