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Packers' Super Bowl win takes big bite out of Vegas profit

By Frank Pingue

The value of bets placed in Nevada's 183 sports books was $87.5 million, up from the $82.7 million wagered on last year's Super Bowl between the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

But the Packers, 2.5-point favorites at most casinos in Las Vegas, covered the spread with a 31-25 win over the Steelers.

That was not welcome news to Vegas casinos who were waving their "Terrible Towels" -- the black and gold dish towels that Pittsburgh's fan base are known for frantically waving during games -- in hopes of a bigger payday.

Sports books in Nevada kept a combined $724,176 from Super Bowl bets, or 0.83 percent of the total wagers placed, down 89 percent from the $6.9 million they pocketed last year when the underdog Saints triumphed over the Colts.

"That's the way it goes once in a while," Jay Rood, race and sports book director at MGM Resorts International, which operates 10 sports books on the Las Vegas Strip, told Reuters on Wednesday.

"We've had a pretty good run in the Super Bowls and every once in a while we're going to take one on the chin, but it wasn't anything devastating."

Rood, who said he had a glimmer of hope for a bigger payday for MGM when Pittsburgh pulled to within three points of Green Bay late in the game, admitted he has experienced worse results during Sundays of the NFL's regular season.

Other gambling options for the Super Bowl, including a slew of proposition bets, allowed casinos to still pocket some money despite the Packers victory.

Every year, the NFL's championship game creates a gambling frenzy in Nevada that is considered by some to be a bellwether for the broader U.S. economy.

While the value of bets wagered fell short of the record $94.5 million set five years ago when the Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks, the Nevada Gaming Control Board took comfort in the fact that betting was up.

"It could have been a lot worse. After the game we were fearing it might have been a loss," said Mike Lawton, senior research analyst for the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

"We didn't win a lot of money but the good thing is wagers were up, so people came and spent money. We're not where we were in 2007 but we are starting to climb out of that hole and back up the mountain."

(Editing by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Steve Ginsburg)