Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Let the betting begin.
The Super Bowl teams have yet to be determined, but that hasn't stopped Las Vegas bookies from posting odds on the big game. Eager bettors can put their money down at several sports books on the four possible matchups, and some already have.
It's an early start for what most in the betting industry believe will be the biggest-bet Super Bowl ever.
"We've always talked about putting them up early but never actually posted them," said Jay Kornegay, who runs the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook. "This year there was so much demand and curiosity we decided to make it official."
If the early action is any indication, the New England Patriots will draw a ton of money should they beat Denver on Sunday and make it to yet another Super Bowl.
At the Westgate, the Patriots opened as 1-point favorites against either Carolina or Arizona. That's assuming New England wins on the road at Denver, where the Patriots are a 3-point favorite on Sunday.
New England is an even bigger favorite for the Super Bowl at the South Point sports book, where lines were put up Wednesday with the Patriots 2-point favorites over Arizona and 1.1-2-point picks over Carolina.
"I think we'll be deluged with Patriot money," said the South Point's Jimmy Vaccaro.
The other possible Super Bowl lines at the South Point have Arizona and Carolina both 3-point picks over Denver. Vaccaro said he would take up to $25,000 on each possible game, with bettors getting their money refunded if their matchup doesn't happen.
Books offering the early odds don't expect to get a lot of action on them. There are too many variables — like a blowout in the conference championships — that could make the actual lines quite different by the time they are posted sometime Sunday evening.
"The Super Bowl is the one betting event where public money just rules," Kornegay said. "And public perception is usually based on what they saw last."
William Hill oddsmaker Nick Bogdanovich said there might be some professional bettors who think they can get an edge with the early odds, but that they were mostly posted to stir up more interest going into this weekend.
Still, there has already been some action on the big game.
"It's a fair gamble for both us and the players," Bogdanovich said.
Assuming there are no blowouts Sunday and no major injuries, this will be a Super Bowl with a tight line. And usually a close spread helps generate more action than games that might look more lopsided.
Bookies are counting on a big Super Bowl handle to cap a football season that has been solid if not spectacular for this city's legal sports books. The handle for the entire season is expected to break previous records, though a string of wins by favorites during the season means bookies won't win as much as they would like.
Last year about $116 million was bet legally on the Super Bowl, the second-highest handle ever. Most oddsmakers believe the increasing popularity of sports betting means that mark will be surpassed this year.
"It's an event that really reflects the popularity of the sport and the strength of the economy," Kornegay said. "We expect this to be a record setting year for the Super Bowl."