On Sunday morning, just down the street from Heinz Field, something unexpected was shaping up at the new sportsbook at Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh: Significantly more money had been bet on the New England Patriots than the hometown Steelers.
That would change in the afternoon.
"Around noon, the love of the Steelers started showing up," Bill Keena, general manager for Rivers Casino, told ESPN shortly after the Patriots-Steelers game kicked off. "If you go down there right now, it's standing-room only and 90 percent of the people have Steelers jerseys on."
The sportsbook still ended up with more money bet on the Patriots -2.5, thanks to a few large point-spread wagers on New England, including an $11,000 bet placed Thursday by a customer Keena said was a die-hard Steelers fan.
In the hours leading up to kickoff, though, money-line bets poured in on the underdog Steelers to win the game outright. When the action settled, 83 percent of the money-line bets were on the Steelers at around +120 odds.
"The best result for us would be the Patriots winning by one or two," Keena said.
It didn't happen, though. Pittsburgh held on to win, 17-10.
The book declined to say specifically how much was bet on Patriots-Steelers, but he said the game attracted approximately 10 times as much money as any other game on the Sunday slate.
Rivers Casino is within walking distance of Heinz Field. Fans often will park at the casino and walk over to the game. "When the Steelers have home games, we sell a lot of beer on property," Greg Carlin, CEO of Rush Street Gaming, which operates Rivers Casino, told ESPN recently.
It was the first NFL Sunday since Rivers Casino opened its temporary sportsbook space this week with six betting windows and six betting kiosks. Keena estimated the lines peaked at more than 100 deep.
"Starting Saturday night, we had huge crowds here," Keena said. "Today is off the charts now. Today took it to a different level."