On Thursday, as bookmakers and bettors focused on college basketball tournaments, big bets on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win the Super Bowl showed up at several Las Vegas sportsbooks.
Tampa Bay was around a 50-1 long shot when bets over $10,000 arrived Thursday at SuperBook, South Point and Circa Sports. Bookmakers have drastically adjusted their odds, while trying to figure out what was behind the wave of interest in the Buccaneers. They would find out three days later, right in the middle of the madness.
At 7:13 p.m. ET on Sunday, just minutes after the NCAA tournament draw was released, Tom Brady announced that he would not be retiring and would return to play for Tampa Bay. Brady’s news hit during one of the busiest times of the year for bettors: the hours following the unveiling of the NCAA Tournament bracket, when sportsbooks rushed to post spreads of points from the opening 32 games and update their chances of winning the national championship.
“It was very hectic, intense,” said Ed Salmons, a veteran Las Vegas bookmaker with the SuperBook.
The SuperBook bookmakers first thought something was up early Thursday morning. That’s when a new client from New Jersey who had never bet with the company asked to place a pair of $10,000 bets on the Buccaneers to win the Super Bowl 60-1 and win the NFC at 30-1. The SuperBook allowed the client to bet $1,000, an amount within the house limits on futures betting, but still moved Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl odds to 25-1 and its NFC odds to 12 -1. Later in the day, a Nevada bettor whom the SuperBook considers savvy placed two big bets on the Buccaneers at reduced odds.
“We thought Deshaun Watson was going to [to Tampa Bay]”, said Randy Blum, head of sports betting for the SuperBook. “We didn’t think it was about Brady at the time.
Chris Andrews, sports betting manager for South Point in Las Vegas, said he took three bets at the counter from the same customer on the Buccaneers to win the Super Bowl just before 3 p.m. Thursday. Andrews said the client, who he described as an “outsider”, bet on the Bucs at odds of 50-1, 30-1 and 25-1. He declined to provide additional details on bet sizes, but acknowledged he had a multi-digit liability in Tampa Bay. On Sunday, after Brady’s announcement, Andrews took the Bucs to 4-1 to win the Super Bowl, making Tampa Bay the Super Bowl favorite at South Point.
“I feel like he had good information,” Andrews said.
Circa Sports also took what sports betting manager Chris Bennett called a “significant” bet on the Buccaneers winning the Super Bowl 30-1 on Thursday.
“I would say with confidence that this person knew that [Brady] was coming back,” Bennett said.
Other sportsbooks that offered shorter Super Bowl odds on the Bucs saw no signs of Brady returning. Jay Croucher, head of trading for PointsBet, said they had the Bucs 19-1 to win the Super Bowl before Brady’s announcement and moved them to 7-1 after the news.
“With something like that, you find out pretty quickly, when the odds screen starts to light up with bets on the Bucs,” Croucher said. “Fortunately, the news spread so quickly that we were adjusting prices within seconds of Brady’s announcement.”
Caesars Sportsbook, one of the only books to offer odds on Brady winning next season’s MVP title, said a few bets were snuck in as the news broke. Brady’s MVP odds went from 45-1 to 9-1.
“A couple of bets came through just as the news was breaking, just as we were focused on the NCAA tournament,” Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading at Caesars Sportsbook, told ESPN on Sunday night. “I do not think so [Brady] we had in mind the bettors and what we are doing for the NCAA tournament. It would have been nice if he had, but I don’t expect him to sympathize with us.”