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Commercials, Dips & Gambling: The Super Bowl Must Be Here

This Sunday, football won't be the only game being played.
John Wardell via Flickr

Across the country this weekend, eyes will be glued to the final football game of the season featuring the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks.  And in Florida, Sunday’s Super Bowl is likely to feature beer, potluck tables covered in bizarre dips, and of course, a bit of not-quite-legal gambling.

Well it’s finally here.   Seventeen weeks of regular season football followed by three weeks of playoffs have all led to this: a showdown in the Arizona desert, absurdly expensive commercials, a dash of controversy over those absurdly expensive commercials, and parties that will bring in fans and non-fans alike.  Aside from cheap beer, and somebody’s aunt’s famous recipe that gets dusted off each year come February, there’s one real mainstay of the super bowl party: gambling. 

One popular game is based on the score at the end of each quarter.  It’s commonly known as a pool.

“It’s basically a grid with a hundred squares and there’s numbers zero to nine on one end and zero to nine on the other,” Corey Rodd says, describing the game. “It’s $100 in the pot, and each quarter $25 is given out.”

You don’t really need $100, though.  It just makes divvying up the squares a bit easier.  At the end of each quarter, you look at the last number in each team’s score, and then go however many boxes up, and however many boxes over to find out who won. 

Rodd explains he’s been doing super bowl pools for a long time.

“Obviously my parents put in my money for me at that point—I was only like seven years old, but our family actually won every single quarter,” Rodd says. “So, the whole family won $100, and we only put in I think $10 or $20.”

Rodd says this year he’s got a small bet going with a co-worker instead.  They’re just wagering on who will win the game; Rodd’s got his money on the Seahawks.  And according to American Gaming Association President Geoff Freeman, they’re not alone.

“Americans will make $3.8 billion worth of illegal bets on this year’s Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks,” Freeman says.  “That figure stands in stark contrast to the approximately $100 million bet legally on the Super Bowl each year.”

Four states allow sports betting: Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Delaware.  But not everyone’s betting money.  Take for instance another YouTube user named T. Pharoah Gordon from last year.

“You’re wondering why I’m wearing green hair today,” Gordon says, looking into his cell phone.  “It’s thanks to those darn Seattle Seahawks for murdering my Broncos.  Murdering my Broncos.”

And some stores use it to gin up business.  In Houston last year, Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale offered to pay back the bill for customers spending $6,000 or more on furniture if the Seahawks won.  He ended up losing about $7 million

But in Florida at least, all this wagering isn’t exactly legal.

“Well obviously sports betting is illegal,” Brian Kongsvik says, “so are the office pools—they are illegal gambling.”

Kongsvik is the help line director of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling.”

Kongsvik says with the prevalence of betting, the Super Bowl can be a trying time for people recovering from gambling addiction.

“What people need to realize is that they may have people in their office, in their employment, a co-worker that is silently recovering from a gambling problem or—again—has the propensity to develop a problem,” Kongsvik says.

Kongsvik’s organization is ready to help 24-7 for anyone who needs support, and they can be reached at (888) ADMIT IT. 

So whether you decide to the throw a dollar in the pool or not, stay safe, be quiet during the commercials, and enjoy the game.

Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.