Super Bowl 54 is right around the corner, and that means that super-fans of the NFL are preparing themselves to lay down expensive bets which could win them huge sums of money. The true extent of betting on the Super Bowl – and on professional sports more broadly – is almost impossible to determine, largely because so much of it happens under the table. We do have some juicy details on how football fans wager their money on the big game, however, and that data could perhaps lead to wiser bets in the future.
Here’s a breakdown of how superfans place their Super Bowl bets, and how this money is won or lost around the world.
Millions are wagered
Just how much money is actually wagered on the Super Bowl? There’s no way of accurately determining just how much money is bet on each Super Bowl because much of it happens both on and off the books. Since sports betting was legalized last year, this forthcoming Super Bowl will be one of the first major athletic contests that people can actually place money on legitimately, so we can expect to see a huge uptick in “on the books” betting this year. Analysis of the 2021 Super Bowl will thus likely have more concrete data to work with – but for now, we can still make some fairly accurate estimates based on existing data.
At least 158 million was wagered on 2018’s Super Bowl, for instance, according to one analysis that helpfully illustrates the difficulties in tracking on the books versus off the books betting. According to the American Gaming Association, probably the best authority on the subject, we know that “The National Gambling Impact Study Commission, in its final report to Congress, estimated American’s bet between $80 and $380 billion per year on sports, making it by far the largest form of illegal wagering, and that report was released in 1999.”
This means that the amount of money “legally” bet on the Super Bowl in past years was probably only somewhere around 3-5 percent of the total bets placed. It’s almost impossible to determine the amount bet under the table, because Americans swapping bets over the bar or in their basements as they watch the game can’t always be calculated and considered by those collecting this data for obvious reasons.
Those paying close attention to Super Bowl betting trends should thus keep in mind that not all of this data is publicly available. Sometimes, you may need to look under the table for the full picture.
Of course, the sum of money actually placed down on bets heavily depends upon who’s playing in the Super Bowl this year. That hasn’t yet been determined, but a number of zany potential matchups which may be ridiculous but are at least fun to review can entertain us in the meantime.
The truth of the matter is that we may never count the huge sums of money bet on each Super Bowl accurately, but that doesn’t mean wagers won’t be made left, right, and center.