Casual bettors placing small wagers is adding another reason to watch the Super Bowl

LAS VEGAS — After years of angst and filibustering, casual bettors strolling around Sin City are basking in the NFL’s embrace of sports gambling with the Super Bowl set to make its Las Vegas debut on Sunday.

The vibe around the city feels like an all-around win for the fan, the league, the TV networks and the gaming industry. Each bet placed gives the consumer another reason to watch.


“With just all the commercials, it’s an onslaught of promotion,” Las Vegas native Jacob Galliher said. “So, yeah, they’re definitely trying to get more and more betting involved because obviously, people have skin in the game. Even if they don’t care about the teams, they’re more likely to tune in.”

Many of the hundreds perched outside the convention center at Mandalay Bay hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the NFL’s brightest stars headed to do interviews with the media outlets lined up in “Radio Row” were wearing team jerseys from across the league.

Awaiting those current and former athletes inside Radio Row were mammoth broadcast sets for DraftKings and FanDuel — the official odds provider for The Associated Press — and the NFL-licensed slot machines.

Sports gambling existed long before the Supreme Court gave states the option to legalize it in 2018. What’s changed is the rise of the legal, casual bettor, like Galliher, who plans to wager no more than $100 on Sunday’s big game. An estimated 68 million Americans are planning to bet on the Super Bowl.

As the NFL increasingly works in conjunction with online gambling sites, the model to draw in consumers seems to be getting more aggressive, said Brian Parson, who traveled from Washington state.

“I see a lot more DraftKings commercials with NFL players and stuff like that,” said Parson, who expects to bet $300 on Sunday. “They’ll reel you in with the whole, ‘Your first bet’s on us.’ You still gotta bet your own money, but they’ll place the bet for you.”

Player propositions have become more popular, especially pregame, FanDuel Group President Christian Genetski said this week at a Super Bowl news conference that centered on the future of the league’s interactive fan experiences. He added that bettors aren’t only putting themselves on the sidelines, predicting a team to win. They’re putting themselves in the shoes of their favorite athletes.

“I just do the whole touchdown thing,” Parson said. “Like, you know Christian McCaffery is gonna score a touchdown.”

While sports gambling is legal in 38 states, including Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, California — home of the 49ers — has yet to open its doors.

Alex Romero, a California native, traveled to Las Vegas to place his Super Bowl bets. He said he has only placed player propositions.

“I mean, if you bet big, you win big,” Romero said. “A little extra cash if you hit. If not, then you go back to the drawing board.”

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