2021 Super Bowl Betting Handle Topples Last Year’s Figures

  • Total Super Bowl handle from the ten states that have reported so far is $420.1m
  • Legal handle for the 2020 Super Bowl was $280m
  • Nevada was the leading state with $136.1m in handle and $12.6m in revenue
  • Tampa Bay’s upset win plus the low total score was the best-case scenario for sportsbooks
Large Super Bowl LV sign in Tampa, Florida
With ten states reporting so far, total Super Bowl handle at US sportsbooks was $420.1m. Total handle for all states last year was $280m. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Records broken with results still incomplete

Super Bowl LV is just two days in the rearview, but many states have already reported their wagering results from the biggest sports betting day on the calendar. The ten that have published their official preliminary results reported $420.1m in handle, or total wagers taken. That is 60% more than the $262.5m in handle those ten states brought in for the Super Bowl in 2020, though Colorado and Illinois did not have sports betting at this time last year, so the comparison isn’t quite even.

estimates handle from only legal bets in the US will be upwards of $500m

The total legal Super Bowl handle last year was $280m, so even just the ten that have reported have blown that number out of the water. PlayUSA estimated that counting all wagering, the handle was around $300m; this year, it estimates handle from only legal bets in the US will be upwards of $500m.

Obviously, much of the increase has to do with the fact that seven more US markets launched legal sports betting industries between last year’s Super Bowl and this year’s: Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

Nevada still led country despite pandemic

The US leader for Super Bowl betting was, as one would expect, Nevada, the gambling capital of the country. The Silver State drew $136.1m in handle and after payouts, ended up with $12.6m in revenue.

While leading the country is impressive, 2021 handle fell well short of 2020’s mark of $154.7m and was the lowest for Nevada since its $132.5m handle figure in 2016. The state’s record is $158.6m in 2018, when the Philadelphia Eagles stunned the New England Patriots, 41-33, thanks in large part to the famous “Philly Special” touchdown play.

With coronavirus fears and capacity restrictions, sportsbooks simply couldn’t attract as many bettors.

Las Vegas sportsbook directors chalk up the drop in handle to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreso than most states, some of which only have mobile betting, sports betting in Nevada, especially on the Super Bowl, is very much a social pastime. With coronavirus fears and capacity restrictions, sportsbooks simply couldn’t attract as many bettors.

NGCB senior research analyst Michael Lawton told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that considering the situation, it’s still a pretty solid result, the fifth-highest handle mark ever for Nevada. The state might have done better if it weren’t for several sportsbooks experiencing technology problems on Super Bowl Sunday.

New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois looking strong

Of the rest of the states, New Jersey and Pennsylvania garnered the second and third positions behind Nevada. New Jersey, whose betting market has been going gangbusters, brought in $117.4m in handle, more than double last year. Sportsbook revenue on that handle was $11.3m.

Pennsylvania had $53.6m in handle, up from $30.7m in 2021. Its revenue was tremendous, coming in at $9.4m. That equates to a 17.5% hold (essentially profit margin), compared to 9.2% and 9.6% for Nevada and New Jersey, respectively.

Illinois was fourth of the ten that have reported, with $45.6m in Super Bowl handle. It, too, had an amazing hold percentage at 16.8%. One theory as to why it is so high is that Kansas City bettors may have crossed the border into the state to bet on their team. Unfortunately for them, the Chiefs lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers handily, 31-9.

Dream Super Bowl for sportsbooks

The result of Super Bowl LV could not have been better for US sportsbooks. The public tends to bet on the favorite, and this year was no different, with more than 60% of bets on the Chiefs. Kansas City opened as a 3.5-point favorite, closing at -3.

People love betting the over, too, as it is much more fun to root for points to be scored. And with the Chiefs and Buccaneers both in the top six in the NFL in scoring, the over made sense. But with an average over/under of about 55.5, the 40-point total score resulted in the unders winning.

The game going under [the total] and Tampa [covering the spread] was the preferred outcome.”

“The game going under [the total] and Tampa [covering the spread] was the preferred outcome,” Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading for William Hill U.S., told ESPN.

According to odds.com, of the seven largest reported Super Bowl bets, three were winners. The highlight was the $3.46m bet on Tampa Bay by furniture store owner Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale. He used it as a hedge against a promotion in which he refunded any mattress purchase over $3,000 in the event of a Bucs win.