Nevada-based media company Vegas Stats & Information Network earlier this week projected Super Bowl betting estimates that were astronomical enough to make “Shoeless Joe” put on a pair of cleats.
A century after Jackson and his Chicago White Sox mates were thrown out of baseball for conspiring to fix the 1919 World Series, VSIN estimated that nearly $320 million would be bet on the Super Bowl.
Last year, when sports betting was mostly restricted to Nevada, those sportsbooks took in a record $158 million on the Super Bowl. The Supreme Court’s decision in May has opened the floodgates to possibly double that number.
At least that’s what Brian Westbrook is counting on. The former Eagles running back was on hand with some of his partners from the investment company SeventySix Capital for a ribbon cutting to officially open Harrah’s sportsbook in Chester.
Even if the estimate by VSIN, a partner of SeventySix Capital, doesn’t get hit, there are seven states that will offer legalized Super Bowl wagering for the first time. That $158 million record from a year ago almost surely will fall.
“Money drives our society,” Westbrook said. “We’re talking about an estimated $500 billion business. That’s real money. Three hundred million on the Super Bowl alone. That’s real money. As money continues to push things, this sector will continue to grow.”
There was no clearer evidence of sports betting’s revenue growth than Westbrook’s opening bet Thursday. He put $100 on Villanova, his alma mater, to again win the NCAA Tournament, at 75-1. He acknowledged it was likely a donation to the casino, but said, “We’ll be there. We’ll be in it.”
“This was taboo back when I was playing,’ said Westbrook, who last played in 2010. “You couldn’t do liquor sponsorships. You couldn’t do anything with casinos, but now the NFL is embracing it. So many [fans] want to be part of fantasy football and, of course, betting on the games. It’s important that cities and towns embrace it, because it’s a money maker.”
Active players generally are forbidden from betting on their own sports, but they are not prohibited from frequenting casinos. A humorous if unsubstantiated theory to the NHL’s Golden Knights’ early success last season was opponents' catching the “Vegas flu.”
“They are men, and they should be treated that way,” Westbrook pointed out.
Harrah’s is the fourth casino to open a sportsbook in Southeastern Pennsylvania and the 11th in the region, counting the seven in Atlantic City.
Westbrook was the Eagles' lead running back when they lost to New England in Super Bowl 39, after the 2004 season. He offered his pick for Super Bowl 53 while gently taking a swipe at the Patriots, who were suspected of having videotaped the Eagles walkthough before Super Bowl 39.
“It’s always hard to go against [Bill] Belichick and [Tom] Brady,” explained Westbrook, who is concerned with the Rams’ inexperience.
“They’re not going to make many mistakes, and if you happen to make a mistake, they will capitalize on it. It’s just hard to go against Belichick and Brady, especially if they’re taking pictures and they know your plays.”
For the record, those suspicions were never proven.
So what if the 2018 season isn’t quite over just yet? The betting window for 2019 opened this week as William Hill-US released its opening odds for the next year’s Super Bowl.
The Eagles are near the top at 18-1.
While the Birds seem poised to hand the keys to the franchise back to Carson Wentz while bidding farewell to Nick Foles, the seven teams ahead of them in the odds have plenty of stability at quarterback.
The Rams, Saints and Chiefs are each 7-1 at William Hill’s area locations and mobile app, which is available in New Jersey. WHUS operates the sportsbooks at Atlantic City’s Ocean Resort and Tropicana casinos.
In 2017, the Eagles opened at 50-1 for Super Bowl 52. But that was before Foles became an NFL legend and while coach Doug Pederson’s credentials were being questioned.
The Rams and Patriots still have to play Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta on Sunday, Feb. 3. The Patriots continue to be a consensus 2.5-point favorite, with some sportsbooks reporting more than 80 percent of the public’s action on New England.
James Harden’s ridiculous run has vaulted him to the favorite for NBA MVP. William Hill, which opened Harden at +550, now has him at -250. Harden dropped 61 points at New York and is averaging 52.2 over his last five. Joel Embiid, who opened at 18-1, is still a decent buy at the 15-1 odds WHUS had him at Thursday afternoon. ... Parx casino’s Betslip is now available in the app store. It’s not mobile wagering, but it allows bettors to create barcodes of wagers that can be scanned at the window.