The Story Behind the First Super Bowl Prop Bet Ever Made

William "The Refrigerator" Perry scores a touchdown in Super Bowl XX - Bears v Patriots
William "The Refrigerator" Perry scores a touchdown in Super Bowl XX - Bears v Patriots / Jonathan Daniel/GettyImages

Who can imagine a Super Bowl without prop bets?

That was the reality nearly 37 years ago as sportsbooks exclusively took action on the spread, side and total for the biggest NFL game of the year.

Now at sportsbooks including WynnBET, there are likely to be hundreds, if not thousands of proposition bets made available to wager on ahead of Super Bowl 56 in Los Angeles. Everything from the more traditional bets (over/under the total passing yards for each quarterback), to the more absurd (who will win the coin toss) is on the table.

But how did it all start, and why has it become such a successful enterprise?

Let's dive in.

What was the first ever Super Bowl Prop Bet?

The first ever prop bet was made available on January 26, 1986 before Super Bowl XX, when the legendary '85 Bears faced the New England Patriots in New Orleans.

Art Manderis, the Director of Caesar's Sportsbook at the time, believed he needed a way to incentivize casual bettors and fans to find a hook into betting on the Super Bowl. He decided to offer up a simple 'yes or no' type wager: Will William Perry score a Touchdown?"

Manderis set the initial odds at 20:1. "The Fridge" at 350-plus pounds had scored three touchdowns lined up at running back for Chicago during the season, but hadn't done so since November of the regular season. Word apparently spread that this bet was being offered at Caesars, and Jimmy Vacaro at MGM along with several other sportsbooks decided to also offer the bet; eventually going from 20:1 all the way to 2:1.

It turns out that Manderis was both right and wrong.

He was correct that the proposition bet would bring in much more action from more novice bettors. He was wrong, however, that Perry would be unlikely to score, rumbling in up 37-3 late in the third quarter.

Why do casual fans love betting prop bets?

Prop bets, particularly for an event like the Super Bowl offer unique and entertaining options that can be wagered on in a very simple 'yes' or 'no' fashion. It also can keep viewers more invested in the game even if a blowout were to occur. In the case of William Perry, the Bears were up by 34 points by the time he scored, giving anyone watching late in to the 3rd quarter a little more incentive.

As the full list of prop bets become available over at WynnBET, make sure you bookmark our Super Bowl hub as our team will be writing up and breaking down all of our favorite prop bets available at WynnBET, as well as following along with the props we'll be betting ourselves.

Follow all of Ben Heisler's betting picks in real-time HERE!