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Story by Bill O'Driscoll, USA Today Sports
RENO — Just before the NFC Championship Game two weeks ago, eager bettors patiently waited in lines that stretched down the aisles at sportsbooks in Reno where San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick played college football for the University of Nevada Wolf Pack.
Now oddsmakers say Kaepernick's popularity — with locals and those outside Nevada — is helping fuel what could be record Super Bowl betting this year in Nevada.
"Without question, I expect for us to exceed all previous Super Bowls, and that's because of Kaepernick and the 49ers," said Steve Mikkelson, Race & Sports Book manager at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno.
"Anytime you get local teams, it always adds interest. Now, it's even beyond that."
Interest is particularly high in proposition wagers, Mikkelson said. For past Super Bowls, the Atlantis has offered roughly a dozen bets on such possibilities as total yards passed or run or other factors aside from the game's score. This year, Mikkelson said, "We're well into the 20s" in number of prop bets.
William Hill Sportsbooks, which operates 75 sportsbooks in Nevada, released its prop bets Monday.
Some of the Kaepernick bets available ahead of Sunday's game — which features the 49ers against the Baltimore Ravens — include over/unders on total completions, pass attempts, passing yards, touchdown passes, rushing attempts and rushing yards.
There are more exotic wagers, too, such as which number will be larger: Kaepernick's longest completion or the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant's total points, rebounds and assists.
Or, will Kaepernick throw more touchdown passes than Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi will score goals in his next game?
As of Wednesday, the 49ers were favored by four points at most sportsbooks.
Why the variety?
Kaepernick's ability to run as well as pass has broadened the betting options.
"It's very apparent the kid's made a huge impact," said Jimmy Vaccaro, oddsmaker and spokesman for William Hill. "All the ingredients work for utilizing him as the poster boy for prop bets."
Add into the mix Kaepernick's team, which has a strong following in northern Nevada, and the betting business is booming this week at sportsbooks across the state.
As of Tuesday, William Hill had taken in more than $25,000 in Kaepernick-related prop bets, and Vaccaro said, "Whatever we put up, we get tickets on it."
Vaccaro expects business to increase as the week goes on.
"With four days to go, we're at about 15% of the total we'll handle," he said.
He said last year's statewide Super Bowl wagers of $93.9 million and the record set in 2006, $94.5 million for the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks, could even be surpassed.
"We have a chance to get to that. With Kaepernick, I think we can get to $94 million or $95 million," he said.
Mikkelson said having a unique player this year such as Kaepernick, with his multidimensional talents and sudden rise to stardom, is the key to driving bettor interest.
"Three months ago, people couldn't spell his name," he said. "Add in that he had such a direct impact on the outcome of the game, and that drives even more interest. That's what makes it so good."
Notable Colin Kaepernick proposition bets:
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