You don’t need to know a thing about football to bet real money on the Super Bowl. This year, as online betting expands nationwide, would-be gamblers have hundreds of zany (and legal) Super Bowl-adjacent bets at their fingertips: from what the first word Usher will say during his halftime performance to whether Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift will announce a surprise pregnancy.
The Super Bowl is a cash magnet: industry research estimates gamblers will bet a record $1.3 billion on the Big Game this year. And the action goes well beyond just betting on points scored and who will win the game. Legal gambling’s explosive rise has encouraged sportsbooks to offer dozens of so-called “novelty” proposition bets, which help attract a non-sports-savvy clientele.
Ever since the Supreme Court legalized sports betting in 2018, sportsbooks have been racing to get state-level operating approval and cash in on the $280 billion gambling market. Estimates vary widely about the size of the online gambling market in particular, with one market research firm putting it at $2.5 billion in 2022 and the data provider Statista putting it at $9 billion the year after that, but it’s clear this is a large and growing market.
A 2022 Pew study found that a full 20% of Americans had bet money on sports in the last year, a number that’s likely increased as gambling apps have proliferated and gained market share—it’s now legal in 38 states.
Younger men are significantly more likely to bet on sports, but prop bets like the ones sportsbooks are rolling out ahead of the Super Bowl help draw in a younger, less sports-obsessed crowd (and their money)—Swifties very much included.
The first ever Super Bowl prop bet was offered as a gag by Caesars in 1986—the sportsbook put 20-to-1 odds on 330-pound Chicago Bears defensive lineman William “The Fridge” Perry scoring a touchdown. Perry shocked the football world when he ran for a one-yard score, and prop bets took off.
“Back in 1986, we were given permission to take some bets outside of the core game markets,” Caesars Entertainment COO and Head of Sports Ken Fuchs told Fortune. “Obviously, there’s things like the coin toss and first touchdown scored and other things … it really kind of set prop [bets] as a cultural phenomenon.”
This Super Bowl, prop bettors can put their money on categories such as whether the opening coin toss will be heads or tails (the market favors tails), what color Gatorate will be poured over the winning coach after the game (smart money says purple), and even where Kelce and Swift will spend Valentine’s Day post-game. (Sydney, Australia, has the best odds, but a long-shot wager on Zambia promises a much bigger potential payout.)
Super Bowl LVIII is expected to be a record-setting event for the sports gambling industry: analysts estimate the total volume of bets placed will be 20% higher than last year, which would represent a nearly 1,000% gain since it was first legalized in 2018. (Sports betting has brought in over $4 billion in nationwide tax revenue over the same period.)
The location and star-studded teams competing in this year’s Super Bowl make it a prime candidate to shatter betting records.
“Las Vegas has become a professional sports town. There’s no other city on earth that can mesh entertainment and sports the way Las Vegas can,” said Fuchs. “You’re going to have a record-breaking game in terms of interest and transaction volume.”