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Super bets are on ... across the border, anyway

3rd February, 03:36

For the first time in Super Bowl history, cross-border shopping for Canadian sports gamblers just got real.

No more flights to Vegas (although the spectacle of that gambling junket is difficult to match.) No longer necessary to place sucker bets with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. No more dealing with marginal off-shore betting accounts.

With sports wagering now legal in New York state, we took the opportunity this past week to get our Super Bowl money down at the Seneca Casino in Niagara Falls, N.Y., a couple of Patrick Mahomes bombs away from the Rainbow Bridge.

Why? Because we could. (Under 54.5 and 49ers plus 1.5, for the record. So close as the under cashed, but the Chiefs covered as 1.5-point favourites.) The point, of course, is that with the attractive option now available, it further accentuates the ridiculously archaic gambling laws in Canada.

The modest book on the casino floor at Seneca was expecting a hectic pre-Super Bowl weekend, and all just six weeks after its opening in yet another non-Vegas wagering venue. Plans are for an expanded version to eventually resemble a typical book found on the Vegas strip. If and when that happens, presumably Seneca will become a must-stop spot for sports fans and bettors.

In the process, of course, Canadian casinos and the tax-grabbing government that regulates them will be missing out on a massive opportunity.

All that money heading over the bridges that connect Ontario with Western New York. All that opportunity lost for Canadian customers held hostage by an archaic view of the wagering world.

At least there's upside for Canadian sports bettors as the move to legal wagering in New York offers a respite to the robbery of the provincial sports lottery in Ontario, and the fact that the government is dragging its feet on legalizing single-game sports betting.

Management at Woodbine Entertainment Group (among others) has lobbied to get in on the game for well over a year now, arguing that with an infrastructure in place to handle betting on horse racing, the transition would be easy.

The government clearly has yet to see it that way, however, leading to what promises to be a steady stream of cross-border cashing for savvy bettors.

In 54 years of the Super Bowl, sports betting has grown with and most certainly helped contribute to the overwhelming popularity of the spectacle. The onslaught of props wagering is a microindustry in itself. Why Canadian legislators don't see it that was is as befuddling as it is insulting.

A word or two on the Seneca experience: It's still a work in progress. Unlike Vegas and online sports books, the betting process is more complicated than it need be. While prop wagering was available, it wasn't as simple or extensive as the versions typically offered in Sin City.

That, too, is a work in progress and will no doubt become more slick as action picks up, a business that no doubt will be significantly driven by Canadian punters not afforded the opportunity across the river.

And at least it's an option, one that should long ago have been available north of the border.


Gambling analysts were to some degree fascinated by the way wagering unfolded on this year's title game -- specifically the flow of money on the Chiefs -- and many had a logical explanation: Fantasy football.

The explosion of various forms of pool play has led to an infatuation with big stats producers which certainly attributed to some of the love for the favoured Chiefs.

If you were in a fantasy league, how could you play against Patrick Mahomes or Tyreek Hill or, for that matter, the offence run by Andy Reid. The result was a steady flow of money on the Chiefs -- even in the wake of San Francisco's defence-led destruction of the Packers in the NFC Championship.

According to various reports on Sunday morning, the ticket count on wagers was a solid 2-1 in favour of the Chiefs and even higher in dollar value. That, of course, got those who love the underdog even rather excited.


The beauty of the point spread is that by its very nature it allows for bettors partial to either side to build a strong case for why their team should cover.

Add in two weeks of preparation, and the analysis never ends.

Super Bowl 54 had the added attraction of the potentially classic showdown of an incredibly explosive and speedy Chiefs offence facing an incredibly ferocious and speedy 49ers defence.

That matchup created a rollercoaster on the over/under total. On championship Sunday, it opened at 51.5 and Chiefs lovers blasted that to a ceiling of 55 points late this week before the so-called "sharp" money came in to knock it back down to 53 on Super Sunday morning.

In the first half anyway, the defensive proponents had it right as the game showed signs of the classic many predicted. And the deeper the game went, the more the sharp under money was justified, resulting in an easy cover for those who took that side.

Meanwhile, related to the aforementioned legalization of wagering throughout the U.S., the betting dynamic from coast-to-coast was different from Super Bowls past.

According to betting giant William Hill reported that 49ers money was heavy in Nevada while at its east coast locations, the Chiefs were much heavier bet.


The Seneca Super Bowl betting journey was tame compared to our all-time fave, the 2008 edition in Glendale, Ariz, the last one we covered live.

Long story short: A couple of us Canadian scribes figured it would be cheaper to fly into Vegas and drive across the desert to save some money. The upside -- an opportunity to make our Super Bowl wagers and then cash them just prior to the return flight back to Toronto.

Add in a round of golf in Parker, Ariz., to break up the drive and it was a near-perfect itinerary. All that was missing was the cashing part on our Super Bowl wagers.


Heading into Sunday's contest, underdogs were on a Super run, cashing in four of the previous six games. And speaking of the dogs -- the 49ers were a profitable 5-0 against the spread this season when getting points .... To add insult to injury, those who had the 49ers on a teaser got beat bad on the late Chiefs touchdown ... And one final thought as we lament the end of the football season -- Blue Jays pitchers and catchers report in 10 days.