Sports betting legal in Michigan, fans mull hundreds of Super Bowl prop bets

Detroit News

Tony Paul
| The Detroit News

Those Super Bowl squares are fun and all, but they’re so last year.

An estimated $6 billion was gambled in the United States on last year’s Super Bowl, according to the American Gaming Association, but barely 5% of that was wagered legally.

This year, 25 states, plus Washington D.C., have legalized sports gambling — that includes Michigan, which launched its online apparatus just in time for sports fans to bet on Sunday night’s big game between Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Patrick Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs.

In-person sports books launched in Michigan last March, starting with Detroit’s three casinos — bad timing, given the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports just hours after they opened — and online sports betting went live Jan. 22 — this time, good timing, just ahead of the NFL’s conference championship games.

“It’s pretty cool for you guys, the first Super Bowl with the first legal betting, rather than having to go bet with a bookie or offshore,” said Johnny Avello, head of the sportsbook for DraftKings, which is one of more than 10 operators, so far, given the green light to operate in Michigan.

“I’m pretty excited for you.”

The Super Bowl traditionally is the most-single-bet-on sporting event in the United States, both in wagers and action. More than 23 million Americans plan to bet on Sunday’s game, with a 63% increase in online wagers from a year ago, according to the AGA. More than 2 million Michigan residents are expected to bet on the game, according to The men’s basketball NCAA Tournament, as a whole, takes in more action, but that’s over 67 games. Globally, the United States presidential action is a bigger draw, but it’s illegal to bet on that in this country.

As for the Super Bowl, the action is not just bets on who will win the game, the Chiefs or the Buccaneers.

You can bet on pretty much everything — the so-called “prop bets.”

BetMGM, for instance, has more 900 prep bets on the board, though there are thousands available across all markets and platforms.

“We stopped at 900,” said Jason Scott, vice president of trading for BetMGM.

“Anything more … it becomes clumsy.”

Among the most popular prop bets for BetMGM, the color of the Gatorade dumped on the winning coach’s head following the game (orange is the early favorite), and the coin toss (BetMGM already has taken an $8,000 bet on the coin toss — tails).

In other markets, the over-under length of the national anthem is a popular betting item, though BetMGM steers clear of that one for transparency reasons. It’s too easily to manipulate.

DraftKings has more than 200 prop bets, compiled by a staff of more than 25. Among the unique ones: the “Doink Special,” or whether any field-goal or extra-point attempt hits the uprights or cross bar, and the “Fat Man TD,” or whether any offensive or defensive lineman will score a touchdown. There’s also the jersey number of the first player to score a touchdown.

“People are always looking for something different,” said Avello, whose DraftKings is affiliated with Bay Mills Resorts & Casino in Brimley — all online operators are required to be tied to a Michigan brick-and-mortar casino. “It keeps you in the action the entire game.”

Other bets are more traditional. Avello, in particular, likes his quarterback-team combo. DraftKings is offering plus-150 odds on Mahomes to pass for 300 or more yards and the Chiefs to win the game, and +325 for Brady to pass for 300 or more yards and the Buccaneers to win the game. 

Or just pick the winner. BetMGM has taken a $2.3 million bet on the Buccaneers.

Don’t have the cash to risk? There also are a variety of free action options with the Super Bowl, including with DraftKings, which is running two commercials during the Super Bowl — the second kicking off free pools during the fourth quarter, involving 10 prop bets, with $1 million up for grabs. Rocket Mortgage also is running its annual free squares promotion, picking random winners of $50,000 for every score change (even on extra points), as well as two $500,000 grand prizes.

But if early returns are any indication since Michigan launched online sports betting, there is plenty of disposable cash among sports fans.

“Immense,” Scott said, describing the activity since Michigan launched online sports betting — including with Barstool Sportsbook at Greektown Casino and Fanduel at MotorCity Casino. “In Michigan, it’s very parochial based, with the Red Wings and Pistons, their (local teams) are very well-supported at a greater rate than some of the other states that we’re in. For us, it’s certainly been a huge first 10 days.”

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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