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Legal sports betting hasn't slowed bookies, office pools, survey finds

31st January, 20:17

Millions more people will place legal bets on the Super Bowl this year as sanctioned sports gambling spreads across the United States, but the proliferation of sportsbooks and wagering apps hasn't slowed illegal activity.

About 26 million Americans will wager about $6.8 billion on the Super Bowl this year, according to a survey conducted by the American Gaming Association and pollsters at Morning Consult.

That's about 3 million more people and $800 million more than last year's estimates. But millions more will wager with a bookie, in an office pool or casually among friends, the survey said.

Since bookies don't report their handle -- the amount of money accepted in wagers -- the way legal sportsbooks do, it's tough to measure exactly how much the illegal market is shrinking as the number of legal options in states around the country grow, said Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association.

"We have to create some level of estimates," Miller said. "But the number of illegal bets that are placed is consistent with last year."

Survey respondents also favored the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, with 52% of respondents planning to bet on the Chiefs.

"These are both exciting teams with really exciting young quarterbacks," Miller said of the match-up. "I think the story line and narrative of these two teams probably makes this a more appealing dynamic for bettors than some of the more predictable and traditional participants."

Odds makers across the country favor the Chiefs over the 49ers as the game approaches.

About 4 million people will place a bet in person at a brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, a 25% increase over 2019, according to the gambling survey.

It's the second Super Bowl under legal sports betting in Pennsylvania. The absence of a Pittsburgh team in the Feb. 2 Super Bowl isn't likely to deter bettors, said Andre Barnabei, vice president of gaming at Rivers Casino, which has become one of the highest-performing brick-and-mortar sportsbooks in the state since it opened in December 2018. He expects the casino's newly renovated, $5 million sportsbook and lounge to be filled to capacity.

The space boasts club chairs and seating for about 200 guests, along with two 50-foot-by-7-foot LED monitors and 24, 86-inch flat-screen monitors.

Reservations are necessary to watch the game in the sportsbook area during the big game, but members of the public can come in any time leading up to or during the Super Bowl to place bets at the sportsbook's 18 self-service betting kiosks and six betting windows.

Rivers also offers live, in-game betting on desktop and mobile through its online sportsbook, BetRivers.com.

Rivers pulled in a more than $229 million handle in 2019, edged out of the top two spots by its sister casino Rivers Philadelphia and Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia.

Meadows Casino in Washington will also host a game-day watch party in its new sportsbook, which opened Oct. 10. The space features 15 ultra high-definition televisions, 18 self-serve betting kiosks, five ticket windows and a 26-seat bar.

Festivities will start at 2 p.m. with a live WDVE broadcast and a party with former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Wagner.

The event is open to the public.

The Meadows H-Lounge will offer stadium-style viewing. The game will be projected on a 220-inch screen.

Meadows will also offer a range of promotions -- drawings for slot play, sportsbook bets and other giveaways -- tied to game events.

Bettors interested in prop bets -- bets on events that happen during a game but not directly related to the outcome of the game -- will be able to find a list of game-related bets at the Rivers sportsbook. Those bets could include the first team to score, the team to obtain the most first downs or the longest punt return.

But bettors will not be able to put money on prop bets like the length of the National Anthem, the color of the sports drink dumped on the winning coach or whether Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow Sunday before the Super Bowl kickoff. That's because unlike other states, Pennsylvania laws on sports betting permit wagers only on events tied to the athletic competition itself.

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