Las Vegas latest member of "Who Dat Nation"

Published February 05, 2010

| Reuters

By Frank Pingue

TORONTO (Reuters) - The New Orleans Saints can count several Las Vegas casinos as the newest members of the 'Who Dat Nation' since most of the millions of dollars being wagered on the Super Bowl are banking on an Indianapolis Colts victory.

The point-spread for the game has bounced around over the past week with reports of injuries, but the Colts are largely expected to beat the Saints by five points.

MGM Mirage, which operates 10 sports book on the Las Vegas Strip, said about 75 percent of the bets placed in its casinos are banking on a Colts victory in Sunday's game.

"At this point we are cheering for the Saints," Jay Rood, race and sports book director at MGM Mirage, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"But the next 48 hours is our bread and butter and make or break time. What we have booked to the game right now is probably only one third of what we'll have."

Casinos expect to see betting on the Saints ramp up on the weekend given wagers from fans who want to support a feel-good team in its first Super Bowl and less than five years after New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

The team's supporters have adopted the refrain 'Who Dat?', which refers to a chant in local dialect "Who Dat Say Dey Gonna Beat Dem Saints?" and fans count themselves members of the 'Who Dat Nation.'

"More tickets might be on the Saints, but we think more of the larger wagers will be on the Colts," said Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sports book operations for the Las Vegas Hilton.

"It seems like people think the Colts are a better team but want to root for the Saints. So I say 'Great. Bet with your heart, we appreciate that.'"

GAMBLING FRENZY

The NFL's championship game creates a gambling frenzy in Nevada every year that is considered by some to be a bellwether for the broader economy. The state handled $81.5 million in Super Bowl bets last year.

According to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, wagers on this year's Super Bowl are expected to surpass last year's but fall short of the record $94.5 million set four years ago when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks.

The outlook reflects an economy still recovering from the global financial crisis.

"A lot of people think it's the teams involved that decide what type of handle we have but really it's an event that sells itself," said Kornegay. "The teams play a small part but it's pretty much a reflection of the economy."

And while plenty of money will be wagered this weekend on the Super Bowl, only a portion of the funds will be devoted to the actual winner.

Aside from more traditional bets, gamblers can take a chance at proposition bets, like deciding whether Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant's point total on Saturday will be more than the points scored by the Colts on Sunday.

There's even a wager based on whether the number on the winning car at an upcoming NASCAR race will be higher or lower than the jersey number of the player who scores the last touchdown in the Super Bowl.

A more unique proposition bet comes from online gambling site sportsbook.com, which allows bets on whether the Saints' Reggie Bush's total yards will be more or less than the combined measurements of his model girlfriend Kim Kardashian, which the site lists as 34-26-39.

(Editing by Ian Ransom; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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