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.
I understand you just spent several days in Ohio checking in on how things are going with the launch of legal sports wagering there. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about the SuperBook’s operation in the Buckeye State and the sort of wagering you’re seeing there so far. I assume it’s football-dominated at the moment, but is there any bettor behavior there that’s surprised you?
Ohio’s about what we expected at this point — a lot of wagers. The size of wagers is above average compared to our other five states. A bookmaker would probably call it preferred play — not only a lot of recreational play, but sizable recreational play.
We’re set up at a place called Taft’s Ale House in Cincinnati. It’s a very cool place. It was built in the mid-1800s originally as a church. Over time, it turned into a brewery, and we have now teamed up with that brewery to add a sports wagering component. We have both live tellers and kiosks. Our official licensing partner is FC Cincinnati. We’re very fortunate to have them and Taft’s as our partners.
Will you do anything at FC Cincinnati’s stadium?
Yes. This current setup is temporary — we’ll probably be there for like three or four years. There’s going to be a new event center close to the FC Cincinnati stadium that will eventually be our permanent home. The stadium is brand new. We saw a game there last year and it was great. It’s brand new, built for soccer.
When you think about the most populous states, Ohio is a big one that typically flies under people’s radar — and forecasts are that it will be a huge state from a sports betting standpoint. Do you attribute this to simply how many people there are, or is there something about how sports betting is set up there or the relative passion for sports that has people feeling so optimistic?
There are two main factors: the population numbers and the demographics of the population. Ohioans are very true, loyal sports fans. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about Ohio U. or Ohio State University and everything in between — Cincinnati Bearcats, Xavier, Dayton, professional teams. It’s a terrific, dedicated fan base.
In Vegas, whenever one of their teams has made the Final Four or playoffs, you’d always feel their presence out here. They’re true sports fans and we’re excited.
During wild card weekend, someone bet $1.4 million at a rival sportsbook on the Chargers’ moneyline when they were up 27-0 in the second quarter. At odds of -12,500, they would have profited by just $11,200. But, of course, the Chargers ended up blowing the lead to the Jaguars. How often do you see front-running bets of that magnitude during in-play wagering on any sport?
In-game wagering, for the most part, is pre-set limits. On the bookmaking side, you have very little control of how to book those type of wagers coming in because they come in at so many different numbers. It’s -4 one minute, then next thing you know it’s -7. So, for the most part, it’s very automated and pre-set. The guy that wagered that, he was probably a high-end player that had pre-set limits with the operator.
Is that something that we would take? Absolutely — $11,000 is not a big risk for us. The flip side is very beneficial if something crazy were to happen. Obviously, it did.
If it was to win $1.4 million, that would probably affect my employment, so I wouldn’t take it on the flip side. In-game wagering, most of those are through a third-party provider, compared to pre-game, where we have 100% control and are able to adjust the numbers to get us in a comfortable position.
The Chargers bet raised a couple of valid questions, one of which is whether outlandish wagers like this should be publicized on social media. One could argue that publicizing massive losing bets is a nice counterbalance to publicizing big winners. But what’s your take on that matter?
I know that a lot of people enjoy those posts, whether they’re winning bets or losing bets. I can’t speak for the guy that lost that bet. Some people would laugh that off and there are others who might be offended. We try, for the most part, to post those bets before a conclusion is reached so it doesn’t look like we’re poking fun at someone who just lost a large wager.
The bet also got me thinking about limits. What sort of criteria informs a decision on how big a bet to accept in a given circumstance? Is it largely driven by how much the sportsbook stands to pay out if the bet cashes?
As far as in-game wagers, limits are pre-set, because they’re just firing away as the game progresses and you don’t have time for approval processes. Those limits are based off of the type of player that he is to us. Is it a first-timer, a player that’s been very loyal to us over the years? That will decide what limits he gets on in-game wagering.
Pre-game, it really kind of goes off the same thing. First of all, who’s the player? Is he gonna run off like a hit-and-run? You see a brand new guy and he makes a large wager, next thing you know he wins and spends it somewhere else. That’s tough for an operator to accept. The more loyalty, the higher limits he’s gonna get.
Are there situations where making a large in-game bet at massively minus money might actually make a lot of sense? As a hedge against another wager, perhaps?
No, but some people I really respect might double up on a bet. Let’s say a player took +6 pre-game. First five minutes the other team scores and now it’s +10 in-game. He might bet it again.
Recreational players have to be very careful to not put themselves in a lose-lose situation where they could possibly middle themselves. Let’s say they took +7 pre-game and all of a sudden the other team goes right down and scores and they bet that other team laying 11 five minutes into the game. Now they’ve put themselves in a position where if it’s 8, 9, or 10, they lose both bets. My advice there is not to react in the early going.
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