[toc]If there is any indication just how popular sports betting is in this country, look no further than the Westgate Casino in Las Vegas. It is home of the most well-known sports book in the world. It also hosts the most prestigous betting contest in the world, the SuperContest.
The NFL wagering competition is always a big deal. This year it is a huge one though, as attendance is up 48 percent. There is a record-breaking 2,748 entries vying to be the best bettor out there.
SuperContest winner earns $1.3 million
With so many teams, there is obviously a record prize pool as well. It costs $1,500 to play. Of that money, $120 goes to administration costs, while the rest goes in the prize pool.
The way the contest works is pretty simple. Each week, an entry picks five NFL games to “bet” on based on the spread. For every accurate prediction, you earn a point.
Last year, Damon Graham won the contest with a 65 percent success rate, going 54-28-3 over the regular season. He bested a field of 1,854 to collect $895,481.
For the first time ever, the winner of this year’s contest will collect a seven-figure payday. The top prize is $1,327,248.
One thing that remains the same this year is the number of places getting paid. For years, the top 50 entries made the money. Even though there was astronomic growth in field size, the payouts remain the same, at least for this year.
It is interesting to note that several entries did not get off to a great start. The top five most-picked games all lost.
Westgate launched high buy-in SuperContest Gold
Another indication that sports betting’s popularity is booming is the launch of SuperContest Gold. This new addition from the Westgate is a $5,000 buy-in version of the regular SuperContest.
The inaugural competition drew 94 entries. It is a winner-take-all format where the winner takes home $420,000.
What caused the spike in SuperContest entries?
There is no one reason that can fully explain the overnight growth of the SuperContest. There ar a few factors that helped contribute to it though.
First is the growth in popularity of proxy services. Once people realized they did not need to be in Las Vegas to play, the number of proxy entrants began to grow. Now the contest is just as open to casual football fans in the Midwest pooling money as it is to professional bettors in Nevada.
Another factor is the growth in betting popularity thanks to mobile betting apps. These apps make it incredibly easy to place small bets with the push of a few buttons. Removing the need to go to the sports book to bet helped grow the market. The fact these wagers can be rather small also opened up sports betting to a different kind of customer.
You could argue daily fantasy sports (DFS) helped boost interest. While the industry contends it is not gambling, the research into players is helpful research for bettors too.
Finally, there is the increasing prevalence of betting in sports media. Even ESPN displays the points spread for games on its website. Announcers draw attention to wagering and what Vegas says. Popular media figure Bill Simmons has a podcast on his popular The Ringer site dedicated to predicting games based on the spread.
This normalizing of sports betting seems to be making headway. American Gaming Association figures suggest sports fans bet $4.7 billion legally and illegally on the Super Bowl alone.
Will this popularity impact the SCOTUS case?
With so many people interested in sports betting, it does feel like momentum is in the industry’s favor. What could be the act that opens the floodgates is a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court.
A couple of weeks ago, parties connected to the upcoming SCOTUS sports betting New Jersey case filed briefs. The crux of the case is New Jersey challenging the constitutionality of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).
So far, the lower courts uniformly sided with the leagues. However, the court would not hear the case if they did not feel like it had merit. There won’t be a ruling until early next year. If it is in New Jersey’s favor, it paves the way to make this multi-billion industry legal in any state that wants it.
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