Welcome to US Bets’ recurring “Ask a Bookmaker” column, which answers many of the common (and uncommon!) questions gamblers and enthusiasts have about how sportsbooks operate in the modern age of sports betting.
The executive vice president of race and sportsbook operations at the Westgate SuperBook, Jay Kornegay has been in the sports betting industry for more than 30 years. After getting his start in Lake Tahoe, Kornegay took his talents to Las Vegas, where he opened the Imperial Palace sportsbook in 1989 before taking the reins of the 30,000-square-foot SuperBook in 2004. A Colorado State University alum whose putting stroke tends to betray him on the back nine, Kornegay has helped navigate the SuperBook’s expansion into multiple states since PASPA was overturned in 2018.
Have a question you’d like to ask Kornegay? Send it to [email protected]. The Q&A below has been edited for clarity and brevity.
This has got to be the most unlikely collection of Final Four teams of all time, wouldn’t you say? What has that meant for the SuperBook’s hold rate and other metrics?
I think it’s easily said that this is the most unusual Final Four we’ve ever seen in over 30 years in the gaming business. When we talk about longshots coming in, it’s hit and miss. In most cases, people think we need the underdogs to win, and that is the case for a lot of football games. But when you talk about future betting, it’s a hit and miss for the operator.
If you were to take a wager — $100, $200, $500 — at a long price and it comes in, there’s a good chance you’re not going to win on that particular futures market. We took a bet back on December on FAU to make the Final Four at 400/1, which I really didn’t have a problem with. But as they played through the tournament, you’re just cringing thinking about that day in December, taking that bet. Those types of bets are fairly common. It’s just that we don’t discuss them because they typically don’t come in. Do we take bets for the Rockies to win the World Series? Yeah, we do, but it really isn’t a discussion topic because they don’t win.
In DECEMBER, a bettor @SuperBookSports put $500 on FAU to make the Final Four…
They just won $200K 😱 pic.twitter.com/QZrBPNbtvE
— br_betting (@br_betting) March 26, 2023
This year I know a lot of books have liability attached to the Sacramento Kings winning their division. They were 500/1 to win the division. We had them at 300/1. There were a couple nibbles at 300/1 and, yes, we are going to lose on the Kings to win the division. We’ve never seen anything like the FAU situation, but when they do come in, there are times when the book will take a hit.
Before the tournament, UConn was 20/1 to win it all, SDSU was 60/1, Miami was 50/1, and FAU was 100/1. You just don’t see those type of odds on teams that make the Final Four.
Who’s your biggest liability?
Miami is by far our biggest liability. We actually do OK with FAU and San Diego State. We just took a large wager on Connecticut at -120 to win it all. We were about break-even on Connecticut, but now we lose a little bit with them. I would say the Owls owe us one. They could win it all and we’d break even with them.
Singling out Nevada among the states you’re active in, has San Diego State been a popular team for bettors to back coming out of the Mountain West tourney in Vegas?
There’s no doubt there’s a western influence on our future pool. Heading into the tournament, the teams with the biggest liability were located in the West, so teams like Arizona, UCLA, and Gonzaga were all negative outcomes for us, but UCLA and Arizona were very minimal because of the low odds that were posted on them. Going into the tournament, we looked very good on the true contenders — Houston, Alabama, Kansas, Purdue. They were all positive outcomes for us.
We always see upsets, especially in the first two days, but after that you typically see the cream rising to the top. Not this year. It is the most unpredictable tournament ever. Whenever extreme longshots come in, there’s a chance we have liability attached to those big underdogs.
I imagine you’ve taken more mobile wagers on this Final Four than ever before, simply because of the amount of states you’re now in. Has this posed any challenges that you need to get a better handle on? And how has mobile bettor behavior been different from that of retail customers?
Most of your educated players wager through a mobile device. Our house players that come in tend to be better for the house as they play market numbers versus the mobile, where they’re always chasing numbers. I’m very comfortable saying almost every operator holds a much lower percentage on mobile.
Sportsbooks really never sleep, but how will it feel a week from now when you show up for work versus how it’s felt all month?
It depends on who’s hoisting the trophy on Monday. It’s always a challenging time for operators, more so with the crowds we see during this time. The property is full, the bars and restaurants are packed, and, of course, the sportsbooks are jammed to the gills, with decision after decision. This tournament has been, for the most part, good for us outside of the Owls making the Final Four. Overall, it’s been a very positive tournament.
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