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What Tom Brady’s return to Bucs meant to the sports betting market

The quarterback’s decision was twice as big as the return of Aaron Rodgers and led at least one sportsbook to ask for an NFL investigation.
Tom Brady's return to the Bucs had a major effect on the sports betting market.
Tom Brady's return to the Bucs had a major effect on the sports betting market. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published March 16, 2022|Updated March 16, 2022

Tom Brady’s decision to return to the Bucs rippled from Tampa Bay into every state that allows sports betting, causing shockwaves that have at least one sportsbook calling for an NFL investigation.

That’s the power of Brady in the betting market.

“Tom Brady may be the NFL’s GOAT,” bookies.com senior betting analyst Bill Speros said, “but he’s a cash cow when it comes to sports betting.”

Related: Even while ‘retired,’ Tom Brady never stopped game strategizing

Brady’s impact caused quick adjustments to Super Bowl lines. Before Brady’s unretirement, the Bucs’ odds were, depending on the source, somewhere between +3300 and +2200 to win it all this season. That means a $100 bet would win $3,300 or $2,220, respectively.

After the move, the lines settled around +750. Tampa Bay went from a middle-of-the-pack team to one of the leading Super Bowl contenders; at least one site (Bovada) lists the Bucs as the favorites (+700).

“That’s the Tom Brady effect in a nutshell,” said Kyle Newman, a spokesperson for the odds comparison site OddsChecker. “There isn’t another QB in the NFL who could do that.”

Though Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Buffalo’s Josh Allen would create similar splashes if they left or were injured, Brady’s announcement was significantly bigger than two other recent blockbusters.

Tom Brady and Mike Evans are staying together, which helps the Bucs' Super Bowl odds.
Tom Brady and Mike Evans are staying together, which helps the Bucs' Super Bowl odds. [ DIRK SHADD | Times (2021) ]

With one tweet, the Bucs’ Super Bowl odds increased by about eight percentage points, from 3-4 percent to 11-12 percent. Compare that jump to the one Denver took by acquiring Russell Wilson (about 5 percentage points) or the one Green Bay got when Aaron Rodgers returned (about 3), according to sports betting site Covers.

Speros called Brady’s announcement “probably the single biggest player move and odds movement” since Brady went from the Patriots to the Bucs in 2020. That news shifted the Bucs’ odds from 40-to-1 (2.4 percent) to 14-to-1 (6.7 percent) at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. Brady’s return, then, had an even bigger effect than his decision to come to Tampa Bay in the first place.

The Bucs’ depth chart explains why, said Adam Chernoff, Covers’ senior content strategist. Without Brady, Tampa Bay’s most likely starter was either a veteran with a 13-35 career record (Blaine Gabbert), a second-year player who has yet to see the field (former Gators star Kyle Trask) or whoever was left among a dwindling crop of unappealing free agents.

“It’s graded relative to the backups or the other options that are there,” Chernoff said.

Those options were unlikely to lead the Bucs to a Super Bowl. But bettors know that Brady can.

Tom Brady led the Bucs to a triumph in Super Bowl 55.
Tom Brady led the Bucs to a triumph in Super Bowl 55. [ DIRK SHADD | Times (2021) ]
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“Tom Brady’s return makes the Buccaneers Super Bowl contenders again,” said Tristan Davis, a sports trader at BetMGM. “The Bucs and Brady had received less than 1 percent of bets before Brady’s return, but we expect bettors will be excited to back Tampa and Tom again.”

They already are, at least with one sportsbook. Between Brady’s Sunday evening announcement and Monday afternoon, 70 percent of the NFL MVP bets FanDuel received were on Brady. His MVP odds (+900) are fourth, behind Buffalo’s Allen, Kansas City’s Mahomes (both +700) and the Packers’ Rodgers (+800).

The buzz around Brady and the Bucs has stirred up some controversy in the betting world. Multiple sportsbooks, including the Westgate SuperBook, received large bets on the Bucs in the days leading up to Brady’s move, before their odds reflected his return. Those bets have prompted questions about whether someone was tipped off about Brady’s decision in the middle of last week.

If inside information came from someone unaffiliated with the league — think: Brady’s driver’s girlfriend’s cousin — there’s no problem, Speros said. But if a tip came from someone with the NFL or Bucs who, for example, overheard a phone call in the office, then that’s a serious concern.

Vice president Jay Kornegay told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he wants the NFL to look into the situation.

“If it was Jameis Winston at quarterback, we wouldn’t have a problem with it,” Kornegay told the paper. “But when it’s Tom Brady you have a six-figure liability with, we’re certainly not comfortable with it. That’s a biggie. It’s not about a player being in or out of a game tonight. You’re talking about the best quarterback of all time playing or not playing.”