LAS VEGAS — With the Super Bowl approaching, fans are talking trash, buying snacks, and, more than ever, placing bets.
Fans bet an unprecedented $99 million on the Super Bowl last year, and the Nevada gambling industry expects to break the record again Sunday, barring a snowstorm. Nevada sports books collected record amounts of football wagers during the tail end of 2013.
All of this is changing the role of the humble sports book, which casinos used to see as a low-profit perk that kept customers from going next door.
“It’s not just an amenity anymore; it’s not just icing on the cake, it’s part of the meal,” said Jay Kornegay, who runs the LVH sports book. “We’ve seen crowds like we’ve never seen before.”
Professional gamblers and odds makers alike attribute the rise in wagering to the increase in televised games, and the increasing ubiquity of sports analysis.
Amateur gamblers are more likely to bet on a game they can watch, because the emotional journey is part of the fun.
The proliferation of sports podcasts, blogs and websites, as well as the debates that rage on social media, have all made fans feel more educated and confident in their opinions, according to Kornegay, who spent last week furiously working with four staffers to figure out hyper-specific data points like the number of receptions Denver running back Knowshon Moreno is likely to have.
Proposition wagers, in which gamblers bet on elements of the game aside from the final score, account for as much as 60 percent of Super Bowl bets in Nevada.
Johnny Avello, who runs the luxurious sports book at Wynn, where the chairs are made of fine leather and the carpet is thick enough to pass out on, believes the stigma is also falling away from the pastime.
Avello, who speaks with a Goodfellas-type Brooklyn accent even though he grew up in upstate New York, says this is the biggest change he’s seen in the past decades.
“Even Al Michaels on (Sunday) Night Football will say, ‘Wow, they covered the spread,’” he said, grinning in disbelief.