PHOENIX – Shortly after the final seconds ticked off the clock at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles to wrap up the NFL’s conference championship weekend, wagering on the Super Bowl LVI matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals opened across the country.
And this year, the nearly endless opportunities for wagering on the big game now are available for the first time – at least legally – to Arizona gamblers thanks to legislation legalizing sports wagering in the state, which became law in September.
The Rams are a 4.5-point favorite on most sports gambling platforms, and the over-under (predicted combined score) for the game is 48.5 points. However, depending on the platform, bettors can also choose from proposition – or “prop” – bets that range from the time it will take country music star Mickey Guyton to sing the national anthem to the color of the sports drink that will be dumped on the winning coach’s head.
There also are a slew of game-specific props, including how many yards Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow will throw for, or how many touchdown passes Rams star Cooper Kupp will grab.
Considering Arizona’s quick growth in sports betting, it could be a historic Super Bowl for sports bookmaking operations, one expert said. PlayUSA, a media service that provides updates and analysis on the sports gambling landscape across the nation, projects that as much as $1 billion in bets could be placed on the game.
“The market as a whole has grown really tremendously throughout 2021,” said Eric Ramsey, market analyst lead for PlayUSA.
A year ago, PlayUSA estimated that Super Bowl LV between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers garnered over $500 million in legal wagers. Since then, nine states have legalized some form of sports gambling, bolstering this year’s projections – even in Nevada.
“That’s part of what led me to project growth in Nevada for this Super Bowl,” Ramsey said of the overall growth.
Although Las Vegas’ hold on the market helps Nevada lead the way in projected handle, Arizona is quickly becoming a player. In less than a year, Arizona has already made its presence known in the gambling landscape with one of the largest projected shares for its first Super Bowl with legal wagering.
PlayUSA’s projections rank Arizona sixth in projected wagers among the 30 states with some form of legal sports betting, trailing only Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Pennsylvania. And based on previous monthly handle, BetArizona.com estimated that $80 million to $120 million in bets could be placed on the Super Bowl in the state.
“I think people in Arizona got their feet wet. They dipped their toes in at the beginning of the season,” said C.J. Pierre, lead writer for PlayAZ.com.
Legalized sports gambling began in Arizona on Sept. 9, opening day of the 2021 NFL season.
“They’ve had a chance to get used to all the sports betting apps, get used to the retail sportsbooks and now with the Super Bowl on the horizon – I think they are primed and ready to get in on Super Bowl betting action,” Pierre said.
In addition to mobile betting, Arizonans can place bets at sportsbooks like FanDuel, which is attached to Footprint Center. BetMGM has reached an agreement with the Arizona Cardinals and is building a facility at State Farm Stadium. The Diamondbacks have joined forces with Caesars and the PGA Tour will open a sportsbook at TPC Scottsdale, operated by DraftKings.
Nevada’s lack of mobile betting – something Ramsey expects to change in the near future – also is opening a window of opportunity for growth in Arizona, where he believes the overall sports gambling experience is more enjoyable than in Nevada for now.
“As we look across any state, the No. 1 indicator of success is the availability of online betting,” Ramsey said. “Just having online betting means that a state will produce about 10 times as much revenue as a state that only has in-person betting.
“Another reason that (Arizona) is going to siphon some of (Nevada’s) customers is that the product that you have in Arizona is better than what they have in Nevada. There are people that bet regularly in Nevada that are just burdened by the product that they have.”
When the Super Bowl returns to Glendale next year, Arizona bettors will be taking part in history. Super Bowl LVII will become the first championship game played by the league in a state that offers legal wagering – a year before Las Vegas hosts its first title game.
And that game would be even more historic if the Arizona Cardinals managed to reach the Super Bowl. Tampa Bay last season was the first team to play in a Super Bowl in its home stadium, and the Rams are repeating the feat this season.
If the Cardinals could extend that home-field streak when Super Bowl LVII comes to State Farm Stadium in February 2023, Pierre said, the added wrinkle of the game being played in a state with legalized gambling could send betting interest off the charts.
“I think it will be the perfect storm to really establish where sports betting is in Arizona,” he said. “The Cardinals were the most bet-on NFL team here in the state. To have a team play in their home stadium while that state has legal sports betting, I can’t even fathom how much betting we would see.”
The addition of unconventional prop bets through some sportsbooks and apps has only increased interest in Super Bowl betting, but Ramsey warns fans to be wary of such wagers. He said they are often the kind of bets that give bookmakers the largest edge.
“If you’re looking to make money from a sportsbook, you’re probably best keeping it simple and betting on the game itself,” Ramsey said. “Generally speaking, they’ll go as far as regulators will allow them to. If you let an operator offer a market on something, they will try to offer that for sure.”
Pierre said new bettors taking their first swing at the gambling piñata should keep in mind that wagering on sporting events should be viewed as entertainment and treated as such.
“Always make sure that you only bet what you’re willing to afford to lose. Betting is a recreational activity,” he said. “How much money would you spend on a night out with your girlfriend or wife? That’s the kind of mindset that people who are new to sports betting should really take on.”