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Super Bowl/sports betting: ahead of the game

1st February, 05:30

Advertisers are not the only ones planning to spend big on this year's Super Bowl. A record number of Americans are expected to gamble on Sunday's championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. Legal wagers could total $400m, twice last year's total, according to PlayUSA.com.

Sports betting has mushroomed since the Supreme Court overturned a ban almost two years ago. The ruling cleared the way for other states to join Nevada in allowing these wagers. Last May, the home state of Las Vegas temporarily lost its position as the top spot for such bets.

Its rival for the crown of sports betting capital is New Jersey: more than 80 per cent of the Garden State's $5bn in sporting bets last year were transacted online. Other states have been less gung-ho, preferring to drive punters toward traditional gambling dens such as casinos and racetracks.

Online gamblers must be physically present in the state when they place their bets. That has led to a flood of New Yorkers crossing the border and ubiquitous ads for betting operators such as William Hill, DraftKings and MGM at New Jersey train and bus stations. 888 Holdings' biggest markets for betting in the state include Jersey City, Hoboken and Newark, three major commuter hubs to Manhattan.

Morgan Stanley reckons US sports betting could generate close to $7bn in gross gaming revenues -- bets minus winnings -- by 2025. But the battle for punters is fierce. Operators need to spend heavily to attract and retain new customers. DraftKings, which is going public through a merger with Diamond Eagle Acquisition, had a net loss of $114.1m through the first nine months of 2019.

All this will be lost on the sports fanatics as they gather around for the big game on Sunday. The smart money is on the Chiefs, who are 1.5-point favourites over the underdog 49ers.

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