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Vegas bookmakers backing 49ers in Super Bowl

San Francisco 49ers tackle Joe Staley (L), guard Joe Looney (C), and guard Al Netter work on blocking drills during a NFL Super Bowl XLVII f
San Francisco 49ers tackle Joe Staley (L), guard Joe Looney (C), and guard Al Netter work on blocking drills during a NFL Super Bowl XLVII f

By Frank Pingue

(Reuters) - The San Francisco 49ers can count Las Vegas among their newest supporters for this weekend's Super Bowl, but casinos in the gambling city would prefer they win by a small margin in a low-scoring affair.

The over-under, or the combined score of the two teams in the National Football League's title game on Sunday, is 47 1/2 points and the 49ers are 3 1/2-point favorites to beat the Baltimore Ravens.

For MGM Resorts International, which operates 10 sports books on the Las Vegas Strip, the millions of dollars wagered so far has made it clear what outcome they are hoping for when the two teams clash in New Orleans.

"Our worst case scenario is going to be a Niners win and the over, so we will probably be rooting for any scenario except for that," Jay Rood, vice president of the race and sports book at MGM Resorts, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"A Niners win by a field goal, and for the game to stay under, would probably be the dream for all the bookmakers."

San Francisco, powered by second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took over the starting role after an injury to incumbent Alex Smith midway through the season, are back in the game for the first time since winning in 1995.

For the Ravens, who are led by strong-armed quarterback Joe Flacco and retiring linebacker Ray Lewis, it is their first Super Bowl appearance since winning in 2001.

This year's game features brothers as opposing head coaches and a west coast team for the first time since Seattle made it in 2006, two factors that could help challenge the record $94.5 million that was wagered in Nevada when Pittsburgh beat Seattle, seven years ago, according to Rood.

"It's a west coast team, the Niners are pretty popular in northern Nevada and Colin Kaepernick is creating quite a bit of excitement because people are able to do a lot of exciting proposition bets with him," said Mike Lawton, a senior research analyst for the Nevada Gaming Control Board. "So I would say I would be surprised if we did not beat the record."

Aside from traditional bets on which team will win or who will be chosen as the most valuable player, gamblers can also wager on a range of things, including whether Grammy-winning singer Beyonce will be joined onstage by her husband, rapper Jay-Z, during her halftime performance.

There are also a slew of betting options related to the head-coaching matchup between bothers John Harbaugh of the Ravens and Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers, including which will be shown first during the game and how long their post-game handshake/hug will last.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Gene Cherry)

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