What’s a friendly wager between friends, or senators?

February 5, 2010

trophyWhile Washington deals with freezing temperatures this Sunday, Super Bowl XLIV will kick off in sunny Miami Gardens, Florida, as the New Orleans Saints take on the Indianapolis Colts. But the snow has not dampened football fans’ spirits, and even a few senators are betting on the outcome.

Senators Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Evan Bayh of Indiana announced a friendly wager on Friday, each betting that their team will bring home that coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy.

What’s at stake?

Well, a win for the Saints in their first ever Super Bowl appearance means Bayh will be bringing Landrieu and her constituents Indiana popcorn, a local favorite.

“I’m predicting that the Saints will pull out a 35-31 victory,” Landrieu said. “I’m not really sure what Indiana popcorn is, but I’ve never been more excited to eat it.”

But if the more seasoned Colts, who enter with a 2-1 Super Bowl record, rise to victory, Landrieu will be serving up red beans and rice to Bayh and his constituents.

“My only regret about this Super Bowl matchup is that Peyton Manning will have to disappoint Saints fans from his home state when he brings his second Lombardi Trophy back to Indiana,” Bayh said.

Senators aren’t the only ones getting in on the action as the Super Bowl is the most heavily bet sporting event of the year.

But not even the NFL is immune to the spoils of a recession as legal bets on last year’s 27-23 victory for the Pittsburgh Steelers over the Arizona Cardinals plummeted.

Some $81.5 million was wagered in Nevada’s 176 legal sports books for last year’s Super Bowl, according to the Nevadawager Gaming Control Board, compared with $92.1 million in bets for 2008’s Super Bowl.

The 11.5 percent drop in wagers is the largest year-over-over decline in legal bets since 1991, and smallest bet since $81.2 million in 2004, according to data from the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Sidebar: Nevada is the only state where it is legal to make sports wagers. Of all bets made on the Super Bowl only about 1.5 percent are made legally, meaning by those over the age of 21 and physically present in the state of Nevada, according to the American Gaming Association.

This year is not expected to be a betting blockbuster. “With the economy still down, I don’t think you are going to see it break any records,” Frank Streshley, an analyst with the Nevada Gaming Control Board, told the Las Vegas Sun.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it beats last year because of the interest with these two teams, but we don’t expect anything drastic,” he said.

Yet, John Avello, race and sports book director at Wynn Las Vegas, told the paper he wouldn’t be surprised to see a betting record.

“I base it on this year, even with the economy, sports did well,” Avello said. “Sports held its own. So, I don’t see any reason why we can’t set a record.”

Either way, the Colts are favored to win, and, unfortunately for Landrieu, the favorite heading into the game has won 32 of the last 43 Super Bowls, according to an article posted on BetUS.com, a sports book and gambling site.

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Mike Segar (the Vince Lombardi trophy displayed at a Super Bowl news conference Feb. 5),  Reuters/Steve Marcus (gambler looks over a Super Bowl wager sheet Feb. 4)

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