In the 2017-’18 NHL season, the Vegas Golden Knights were the talk of the hockey world and, particularly given their location, the talk of the hockey betting world.
As a brand-new expansion team, the assumption was that the Knights would be cellar dwellers, and the preseason Stanley Cup odds reflected that, ranging from 300/1 to 500/1 for the rag-tag collection of castoffs to drink from the Cup.
But the locals were excited. They took little flyers for $5, $10, maybe $100. They also bet on the Knights to win individual games and collected routinely on those; after all, the Golden Knights won 51 of 82 contests. They were the greatest expansion team in modern American sports history, winning the Pacific Division, then the Western conference.
By the time the puck dropped for a Stanley Cup finals showdown with the Washington Capitals, the Las Vegas sportsbooks were collectively estimated to be facing north of $5 million in liability if the Knights won.
Luckily for the casinos, the Caps prevailed in five games. (We sure hope some of those bettors who got the Knights at 300/1 or higher hedged a little in the finals.)
Needless to say, the odds for the Knights entering their second season were a wee bit shorter. And with the team off to a 4-4 start (with 1 overtime loss), the betting frenzy isn’t what it was last year.
It’s all relative
“Overall, the handle on the games has cooled a bit from the late run last year,” MGM Resorts International VP of Race & Sports Jay Rood tells US Bets. “However, we are generally seeing five to six times the handle on Vegas Golden Knights home games than the other [NHL] games.”
That gives you a sense of just how hot the action was last season, if Knights handle is down, but still dwarfs that of other games.
MGM owns numerous properties along the strip, including a couple located right next to T-Mobile Arena, where the team plays, and the books there are drawing plenty of hockey bettors.
“We are seeing really good handle at the Park MGM Sports Book at Moneyline and also at the New York-New York Sports Book,” Rood says. “Interestingly enough, most of those wagers are being placed on the opposing team, as many of the visitors traveling to Vegas are coming to watch their team play the Golden Knights.”
Jimmy Vaccaro, the oddsmaker at South Point, backs up what Rood is seeing, in terms of a mild drop-off in betting enthusiasm for the home team.
“ROI is down, so action is a little off,” Vaccaro says. “Last year, they bet with their hearts. This year, they’re betting with their wallets.”
From the desert to the swamps
It’s a whole different story in New Jersey, as you might expect.
At FanDuel Sportsbook, the Golden Knights represent only 3.25% of the total Stanley Cup handle — almost exactly what you’d project in a 31-team league — but it’s actually above the median because the local teams have absorbed more than their share of the bets. A full 20.34% of the Stanley Cup handle, FanDuel tells us, has been wagered on the New Jersey Devils.
The Golden Knights are currently +1100 to win the Stanley Cup at FanDuel Sportsbook, which is exactly where the line opened.
With the 4-4 start, the pace of wagers on Knights game and their Cup odds in Vegas have dropped slightly since the beginning of the season, Rood shares. But the veteran bookmaker has already developed an optimistic homer streak, barely one season into the Vegas hockey boom.
“The 10-game win streak is right around the corner,” he says, “and it will be full-on Vegas Golden Knights fever.”