Wagers placed on Super Bowl LVI reached record highs as legal online sports betting continues to boom in the United States following the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association. In May 2018, the Supreme Court rescinded the federal ban on sports betting, opening the door to the legalization of the estimated $150 billion in illegal wagers placed on professional and amateur sports in the United States each year.[ii]
The decision overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).[iii] PASPA, which was passed in 1992, making it illegal on a nationwide basis to gamble on sports, although Nevada was given an exemption.[iv] Justice Alito wrote in his majority opinion: “The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not.”[v]
Since the Supreme Court’s decision ruling PASPA unconstitutional, there has been a sprint to the sports betting marketplace.[vi] Now, about 30 states permit at least some form of legal sports betting.[vii] No longer is Las Vegas the sports betting mecca in the US, as more money is now wagered on sports in New York than in Nevada. New York has already taken the throne as the leading sports betting market in the country after launching its state-regulated online sportsbooks in January 2022.[viii] In New York’s first month with mobile sports betting, the Empire State brought in over $2 billion in sports betting handle, far exceeding the previous monthly handle record of $1.3 billion set in New Jersey in October 2021.[ix] In total, more than $98 billion has already been legally wagered on sports in the United States since June 2018.[x]
As sports betting continues to expand, professional sports teams and leagues now embrace sports gambling as a commercial boom and a way to connect with fans, particularly younger ones.[xi] Nowhere was this more evident than Super Bowl LVI. The American Gaming Association (AGA), the gambling industry’s trade group, estimates that legal US sportsbooks handled over a billion dollars in total wagers on the game.[xii] The AGA reported that 45 million more people had access to legal sportsbooks in their home states for the Super Bowl this year compared with last year, as 10 additional states have since passed legislation allowing sports betting to begin.[xiii] In total, more than 80 million sports betting transactions were logged over Super Bowl weekend across the various sportsbooks, more than double that of last year.[xiv]
The surge in Super Bowl betting can be attributed to the rise of mobile sports betting. Roughly 112 million Americans — more than a third of the population — can now legally wager on sports without leaving their couch.[xv] Mobile wagering has now become the preferred method of sports gamblers. BetMGM said the company hit a new record for the number of digital bets this Super Bowl weekend.[xvi] Likewise, DraftKings said total bets on the game through its sportsbook more than doubled compared to last year.[xvii]
Of those taking advantage of mobile wagering was the infamous sports betting celebrity, Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale. McIngvale, a beloved icon in Houston, Texas, where he owns Gallery Furniture, has garnered national media attention by placing enormous sports bets and attempting to mitigate his risk with promotional giveaways at his store.[xviii] This Super Bowl, McIngvale lost $9.5 million betting on the Cincinnati Bengals to win.[xix] As there is no online sporting betting in Texas, McIngvale made two separate trips to Louisiana, where, at a rest stop, he placed one $5 million bet and one $4.5 million bet, both on Caesars Sportsbook’s mobile app.[xx] Caesars Sportsbook reported that the $5 million bet was the largest single wager the company has ever taken.[xxi]
The money-line odds for the Bengals to win was at +170 when McIngvale placed the bets.[xxii] If he won, McIngvale would have received a payout of just over $16.2 million.[xxiii] However, the Los Angeles Rams ultimately beat the Bengals 23-20. Despite losing a total of $9.5 million, McIngvale says Gallery Furniture will continue to do similar promotions in the future.[xxiv] This year’s promotion offered customers who spent at least $3,000 on mattresses and furniture at his store their money back if the Bengals won.[xxv] Sales surged about 250% over the two-week promotion period, bringing in about $20 million in revenue.[xxvi] The way McIngvale sees it, “It’s a marketing concept — it’s not gambling.”[xxvii]
On the flip side to Mattress Mack’s unfortunate bets, Canadian rap superstar Drake took home a massive payday after successfully betting on Super Bowl LVI. Drake placed three separate bets: $472,364 on the Rams to win outright (payout: $713,244); $393,636 on Odell Beckham Jr. (OBJ) to score at least one touchdown (payout: $846,288); and $393,636 on OBJ having more than 62.5 receiving yards (payout: $712,457).[xxviii] After cashing in on his first two bets, Drake ended up with a grand total of $1.4 million in winnings.[xxix]
For all gamblers, the takeaway from Mattress Mack’s and Drake’s Super Bowl LVI bets is this: You win some, you lose some.
[v] Murphy v. NCAA, 138 S. Ct. 1461, 1484 (2018).