Record amount of legal wagering set to take place Sunday, but more will bet illegally on Super Bowl

The Super Bowl this weekend is expected to shatter records in the gaming world, with more than 23 million Americans wagering more than $4 billion on bets related to the NFL championship.

A lot of it has to do with the rapid expansion of legalized betting in the United States. Since last year, several states, including Virginia and the District of Columbia, have legalized sports betting and also made it much easier to place a bet thanks to the proliferation of mobile betting.

“We’re going to see just astronomical numbers coming out of that state [Virginia] given this is the first time that Virginians are able to bet legally online,” said Sara Slane, a gaming consultant who runs Slane Advisory.

In fact, the American Gaming Association says mobile betting is likely to surge up 63% from a year ago.

This year, like every year, you can bet on nearly anything you can imagine related to the game. It can range from the outcome of the pregame coin flip to the length of the national anthem, to postgame festivities like the color of Gatorade poured on the winning coach and who the MVP might be.

What happens during the game can also be wagered on both before kickoff and as the game happens.

In D.C., the D.C. Lottery’s mobile app has partnered with a company called Simplebet and, “you’ll be able to, if you’re in the District of Columbia, log on to your sports book Intralot site and actually place proposition bets throughout the game,” Slane said, referring to what’s known as micro-betting.

That’ll give gamblers the opportunity to bet on the outcome of a potential comeback, as well as even smaller potential outcomes of different situations during the game.

“The in-play proposition betting will be something else that I’ll be really curious to see how much volume is generated from that,” Slane said.

It’s something gamblers in the District can do in greater detail than what those who wager in Virginia, though mobile apps there will also offer you the chance to bet on outcomes with shifting odds as the game goes on.

And if that’s not enough, you can even bring the Washington Capitals into the mix. One bet that’s being offered lets you pick between whether there will be more combined goals scored in their game against the Philadelphia Flyers, or more combined touchdowns in the Super Bowl. Or you can guess whether Alex Ovechkin will have more shots on goal than Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu has tackles.

But even with all those legal options in front of you, the AGA says more people will still bet illegally this year.

But much of that has to do with bets among friends or office pools that involve “boxes” drawn before the game.

Those are all Super Bowl traditions on a small scale that are generally harmless, and are only illegal in the technical sense, though almost never serious enough to actually draw the wrath of law enforcement.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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