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Sure Bet: Vegas Will Be a Big Winner

January 26, 1998| From Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — One bettor has $500,000 riding on the Denver Broncos covering the spread in the Super Bowl. Others have a mere $5 wagered on whether the Green Bay Packers will score more points than Michael Jordan on Sunday.

Across this gambling city, gamblers are betting large and small, straight and strange, on what is expected to be the heaviest-bet Super Bowl ever.

Already, heavy betting on both teams has caused the point spread to fluctuate from 12 1/2 to 13 1/2 and back down to 11 1/2, where it was in most casinos Friday. And with the weekend at hand, oddsmakers were bracing for long lines of eager bettors up to kickoff Sunday.

"Sunday will be out of control," said John Avello, sports book manager at Bally's hotel-casino.

While the Packers remain heavy favorites, that hasn't stopped Broncos fans from wagering on their team.

So many bets were coming in on the Broncos, in fact, that the line in the game moved two points from where it had climbed in the hours following the conference championship games for both teams.

"Out of every 50 tickets we're writing, 45 are on the Broncos," Avello said. "But the five that are on the Packers are for the bigger money."

While one Strip casino took a $500,000 bet on the Broncos, most of the big-money bets were on the Packers. Smaller bettors, meanwhile, mostly favored the Broncos.

"After the initial rush, all the casual bettors have been betting the Broncos," said Michael "Roxy" Roxborough, who set the opening line for the game in Nevada sports books. "But the large bets are on Green Bay."

That wasn't necessarily the case at Caesars Palace, where Vince Magliulo said he has taken big bets on both teams. Still, Magliulo said most of the money has been bet on the Broncos.

"We've taken five- and six-figure bets on both teams," said Magliulo, the assistant vice president of race and sports at the resort. "But up to this point the majority of the money has come in on Denver."

While oddsmakers have had to adjust the point spread to try and balance the betting between the teams, most of the big betting will be done in the 48 hours prior to kickoff.

But even with an estimated 80% of the money still to be bet, bookmakers were confident they would surpass the legal sports book betting record of $70.9 million set in the 1996 Super Bowl (between Dallas and Pittsburgh). Nevada casinos have the only legal sports betting in the United States.

"You've got two very popular teams with marquee players involved," Magliulo said. "Coupled with the fact the game is so close and bettors will come here on their way to the game will certainly enhance the wagering."

While the straight betting line will get the most action in sports books, bettors will be able to wager on anything from which player will score the first touchdown to whether Phil Mickelson's score in Sunday's fourth round of the Phoenix Open will be higher than the total yards gained by Green Bay's Robert Brooks.

Bettors can also bet without a point spread, getting $25 for every $10 bet if Denver wins the game outright.

Some 200 different proposition bets around the city tantalize bettors to come up with another $5 or $10 to keep their interest in a game they might otherwise be losing.

"By far the most popular bet is the player to score the first touchdown," Roxborough said. "People love that one. I think some like to get their decisions over early."

Even bettors who lose their money during the first half of the game will have a chance to get it back. Most sports books will offer an adjusted halftime line that for some gamblers will be their final chance this season.

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