Elise Amendola / Associated Press
Published Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019 | 7:40 p.m.
Updated Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019 | 9:23 p.m.
The Super Bowl matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots looks so competitive that local oddsmakers couldn’t come to a consensus on which team should be favored on Sunday night.
Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, William Hill sports books and Wynn Las Vegas were among the sports books to post the Rams as 1-point favorites. MGM Resorts, Station Casinos and Caesars Entertainment demurred and opened the Patriots anywhere from a 1- to 1.5-point favorite.
“It’s principle: If the Patriots make the Super Bowl, I’m going to make them the favorites,” MGM Vice President of Race and Sports Jay Rood said. “They’re a team that’s shown they deserve that.”
The betting public agreed, as early gamblers came in on strong on the Patriots. MGM took an immediate six-figure bet on New England over Los Angeles, while other casinos were inundated with similar action.
The early surge pushed all the shops towards the Patriots, as they mostly settled as a 1.5-point Super Bowl favorite less than an hour after they defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 37-31 in overtime of the AFC Championship Game.
“The public saw the tail end of that game, and there was no way they were going against Tom Brady and the Patriots,” Station Casinos Director of Race and Sports Jason McCormick said. “I think we’ll continue to see Patriots money until we’ll get some back on the Rams closer to the game. I anticipate the handle will be fantastic.”
Bettors in Nevada wagered a record $158.58 million on last year’s Super Bowl, the fourth time in the last five years that the game attracted a new high. Early indications are that this year’s game will follow the same pattern.
The total for Patriots vs. Rams is set at over/under 58.5 points, the highest in Super Bowl history. More points typically means more opportunities for proposition wagers, and McCormick said Stations was prepared to release its most comprehensive menu of betting options ever later this week.
“Everyone’s always looking for more props, and we’re always looking to put up more props and feed their needs,” McCormick said. “The dynamic offenses you have this year will help.”
The Patriots and Rams helped contribute to a historic conference championship Sunday. It was the first time in NFL history that both semifinals reached overtime, as the Rams edged the Saints 26-23 on a 57-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal before the Patriots’ win.
McCormick said the atmosphere at Red Rock sports book was like nothing he had ever seen before for the two games. At one point, he popped out of his office to see bettors running down the aisles — and not to celebrate a big play, but to bemoan one of several moments of controversial officiating.
“I don’t think you could have asked for any more exciting games,” Rood said. “That was pretty good. Unfortunately, the officials played a bigger part than they should have.”
The most disputed moment came late in regulation of the Rams’ victory, when a critical pass interference penalty on Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman went uncalled. If it had been properly flagged, there’s a high probability that the Saints would have run down the clock and kicked a field goal to win without the need for overtime.
The no-call cost MGM on the game, as it was lopsided with wagers on the Rams, but was an overall positive result for its bottom line. That’s because MGM was flooded with Saints’ future bets from earlier in the season, and would have suffered a significant loss if they won the Super Bowl.
That wasn’t the case elsewhere. At Stations, the Rams’ upset victory was a windfall for bettors and added to a rough day for the house, as McCormick said it was also, “overloaded,” with wagers on the Patriots.
The differing fortunes serve as a reminder that not all sports books are always rooting for the same outcome — or even on the same page when it comes to positioning for a single game. Even a single game as big as the Super Bowl.
All the casinos may have converged on favoring the Patriots over the Rams eventually, but not before much initial dissension.
“All the money in the world is on the Patriots right now,” McCormick said. “The betting public sees no way the Patriots can lose two straight Super Bowls.”