LAS VEGAS -- The Carolina Panthers will go to San Francisco favored by more than a field goal to win the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.
Oddsmakers didn't even wait until the Panthers finished off the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday to install them as favorites for the game against the Denver Broncos two weeks from now. At most books in this gambling city, the Panthers were a 4-point pick, though the early line varied, with the over/under settling in at 45.
"The public normally bets what they saw last and they liked what they saw in the Panthers," said Jay Kornegay of the Westgate Las Vegas Super Book. "I think the line will settle in at 4 and stay there until Super Bowl weekend."
Bettors couldn't wait to get early action on the game at the Westgate, which posted a line as the third quarter of the Cardinals-Panthers game was winding down. The initial line favored Carolina by 5 1/2 points, and was quickly bet down to 4 points.
"We had 10 windows open and there was a flurry of activity at those betting windows," Kornegay said. "All the early money was on Denver."
At the South Point sports book, bettors stood 10 deep in front of nine betting windows as the NFC title game ended. Many cashed tickets on the Panthers, then immediately reinvested their winnings with Carolina in the Super Bowl as a 4-point pick.
"They're cashing with one hand and betting with the other," said the South Point's Jimmy Vaccaro. "It's incredible, they're just betting non-stop."
Vaccaro said the line could settle in quickly at 4 points and stay there through Super Bowl weekend. Most of the money bet on the championship game does not start coming in until the Friday before the game.
Based on the action at the South Point, Vaccaro said he expects the record of $119.4 million bet in Nevada's legal sports books to fall. That record was set two years ago when the Broncos and Seattle Seahawks met in the Meadowlands.
"I know today was the highest handle for a Sunday leading into the Super Bowl I've ever seen in my life," said Vaccaro, who has run sports books in Las Vegas since the 1970s.
Carolina's run to being favored in the Super Bowl capped a season that surprised some bookies. The Panthers had been 60-1 at some books entering the season, with only nine teams bigger long shots, according to the betting analysis site Pregame.com.
Several sports books began accepting bets last week on potential Super Bowl matchups, with Carolina at the time a 3-point pick over Denver. But while Denver barely escaped with a win, Carolina was impressive in blowing out Arizona.
Betting on the game itself generates only about half the revenue sports books bring in for the Super Bowl. The rest is in the so-called "prop" bets, which have grown greatly in popularity over the years.
At the Westgate, Kornegay said he would post some 400 different prop bets later this week for bettors to take a shot at.
"The Super Bowl is always going to sell itself no matter who is in it," Kornegay said. "But this may be the biggest yet. There will be some intriguing story lines and I'm sure we'll be booked to the gills."