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Super Bowl expected to set legal betting record

U.S. bettors will place more than $500 million in wagers on Super Bowl LV at legal online and retail sports books across 21 U.S. jurisdictions where sports betting in some form is legal, according to projections by PlayUSA, which provides news and analysis of the U.S. gaming industry.

Whether those projections are met or surpassed, the matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday will almost certainly become the most legally wagered-on single event in U.S. history.

“With the expansion of legal sports betting over the last year, both in terms of new markets and growth within existing markets, a historic weekend is inevitable,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayUSA.com. “Half a billion dollars or more bet on one game seems almost unfathomable, but considering the direction of the U.S. market, that handle is easily within reach.”

With 20 states and Washington, D.C., representing a population of approximately 120 million, now offering some form of legal sports betting, a year-over-year jump is certain. Last year, 14 states, representing a population of 70 million, allowed for legal Super Bowl bets. Those 14 states combined for an estimated Super Bowl handle of $300 million, according to PlayUSA.

The Super Bowl is always the most bet-on single sporting event in the U.S. In 2020, the American Gaming Association estimated that $6.8 billion was bet in the U.S., both legally and illegally.

Sports betting is legal in at least some form in Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.

Two of the most populous legal states, Michigan and Virginia, launched online sports betting just last week.

Illinois, Colorado and Tennessee did not offer any form of legal sports betting for last year’s Super Bowl. Together they represent three of the seven largest legal sports betting markets currently operating in the U.S. Michigan is also expected to quickly join the upper tier of U.S. markets.

Nevada, the second-largest market in the U.S., is expected to lead all U.S. markets with $125 million in bets on the big game, according to PlayUSA projections. No. 1 New Jersey, which is less event-driven than Nevada, is expected to take in $75 million in Super Bowl wagers.

PlayUSA projects Illinois to be No. 3 with $60 million in bets.

“The potential this year is enormous compared to last year, with legal sports betting available to 50 million more people than last year’s Super Bowl,” said Eric Ramsey, analyst for PlayUSA. “The U.S. market has changed so much over the last year. Not only has it nearly doubled in size, but bettors now make a higher percentage of their bets online compared with a year ago. And sports books will utilize the Super Bowl to aggressively promote themselves to new customers, especially in fledgling markets like Michigan and Virginia.”

The Chiefs are consensus 3-point favorites over the Bucs, with an over/under that could surpass the Super Bowl record of 57 points by kickoff. Prop bets and in-game wagering will also add significantly to the handle, especially as bettors have become more accustomed to betting via mobile apps.

Already books are offering prop bets, including who will be the first player to score, who will win the coin toss and the over/under on how many players will throw a pass during the game.

“It’s an intriguing matchup with two of the biggest names in the sport, Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady, facing off, and that should help compensate for both teams being from relatively small markets,” Gouker said. “With the expansion of the sports betting market, it is close to a certain win for the industry, with the potential to reach more customers than ever before.”

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