Someone Placed a Record-Setting Super Bowl Bet From His Phone

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But he still had to drive two hours to do it in a legal state.

Jason Russell |

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(Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire DGM/Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire/Newscom)

An estimated 31.4 million people will place a bet on the Super Bowl. Most of them won’t drive two hours just to place that bet. And most of them won’t lay down bets totaling $9.5 million.

That’s how much mattress mogul Jim McIngvale bet on the Cincinnati Bengals to win the Super Bowl. If they pull it off as the underdogs, he’ll get a profit of $16.15 million. McIngvale started with a bet of $4.5 million with Caesars Sportsbook, which said it was the largest bet to ever be placed from the convenience of a mobile phone. When he placed another $5 million bet on the Bengals, Caesars said it was the largest legal wager in U.S. history, beating out a $4.9 million bet on the heavily favored St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI (they lost to a young upstart quarterback named Tom Brady).

McIngvale is fortunate he didn’t have to go all the way to Las Vegas to place the bet, as he would have had to do before 2018, when the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. But the Supreme Court didn’t legalize sports betting nationwide, it simply said Congress couldn’t ban states from legalizing it.

That’s why McIngvale still had to drive two hours from Houston to cross the Louisiana border. Despite its reputation as a do-as-you-please, leave-us-alone state, Texans have not been allowed to gamble as they please and any sportsbooks or casino operators trying to enter the state will not be left alone.

In Louisiana, legal sports betting on mobile devices finally launched in the last few weeks. Before then, McIngvale would have probably just gotten on a plane to Las Vegas (where he still would have had to register in person at a casino before placing a bet on his phone), because the alternatives were driving to a Mississippi casino or driving over the Tennessee border if he still wanted to place the record-setting mobile bet.

Nationwide, PlayUSA (a sports betting news and analysis website) estimates that $1 billion will be wagered legally on the Super Bowl. But that’s only a fraction of the $7.6 billion that the American Gaming Association estimates will be wagered legally and illegally (though the vast difference may come from different methodologies). Less than half of the U.S. population lives in states with convenient mobile sports betting offered by multiple providers.

Texas doesn’t have legalized sports betting, but clearly that doesn’t mean people won’t find a way to bet. In addition to casual bets between friends, dedicated bettors can try to find an illegal bookie or place a bet with an offshore sportsbook. They can also follow McIngvale’s lead and simply travel to a state with legalized betting.

Or maybe Texas should just let Texans do as they please and let sportsbooks start operating in person and online.

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