Sportsbooks around the world breathed a huge sigh of relief after the New England Patriots’ stunning Super Bowl LI comeback culminated in a touchdown instead of a field goal.
If the Pats had won it 31-28 the books would have had to pay out a lot of refunds as the spread was set at -3 for New England, while the over/under points mark was set at 59 for most of the two weeks leading up to the game. All bets would have been null and void, turning the biggest betting event in the calendar into a damp squib.
As it was the Patriots claimed a 34-28 overtime victory following one of the most amazing comebacks in sporting history, the over paid out in points totals and so did New England to cover the spread.
Many Vegas sportsbooks, including Golden Nugget, Caesars and Station, all reported winning days after that turnaround, although they would have preferred Atlanta to win.
An estimated $5 billion was was wagered on Super Bowl LI – most of it on the gray market – and the action favored the Pats.
At BetOnline, for instance, two-thirds of players backed the Patriots -3, and 60% backed New England outright, with 59% backing the over 59 points.
In the third quarter the books would have been rubbing their hands with glee. The Falcons led 28-9, Tom Brady was looking exhausted and the minority that backed Atlanta were counting their winnings.
William Hill was so confident it made the Patriots +1600 with just 18 minutes to go. The bookmaker said it was killed on the in-play as players lumped on at those huge odds, and it made a heavy loss overall.
Brady flipped a switch and led the Pats to a sensational victory, and another hit the books took was on all the futures bets: many backed the Patriots at the start of the season, when they opened at +800, and few backed Atlanta.
Some well-liked prop bets also cashed in. For the first time in history, the game went to overtime, paying out at anywhere from +650 to +1000. William Hill said it paid out 1,222 “yes” bets on this.
Stephen Grostowski missed an extra point and 87% of bettors backed “yes” on the missed extra point at +250, according to William Hill, which also had to pay out to 96% of players that said there would be a two-point conversion.
Brady was named MVP and he attracted more than double the action on anyone else across the board at -120, so that was another blow to the books. But Brady also threw an interception first, something few would have predicted, so that allowed them to recoup something.
Across 61 prop bets relating to what happened on the field (rather than what happened in Lady Gaga’s wardrobe) and in which there was a favorite outcome, the underdog paid out 59% of the time, mainly due to the Patriots’ surprisingly poor first-half performance.
Gaga’s first song was Edge of Glory, +600 at Bovada, there was no wardrobe malfunction, paying out players that took the -1000 on “no” and disappointing the hordes of “skin to win” fans, and despite the rumours she did not mention Donald Trump’s presidency, paying at +100 on “no”.
The National Anthem came in at under, paying at -120, and there was no Gatorade dump, paying +1100. Julio Jones getting the most receiving yards for the Falcons was no surprise, but James White picking up the most yards for the Patriots was.
All in all, a mixed day for bettors and for the books, but many will be thankful for that overtime touchdown or curse Julian Edelman’s logic-defying catch at 28-20 to the Falcons.