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.
Since you opened the regular-season win market, what team’s totals have shifted the most and why?
Sometimes we understand the reason for the support that you’d have on some of these teams and sometimes we can’t explain it. Certain teams catch the eye of an educated player or just the general public and we can’t explain anything other than that. The Browns have moved from 9.5 to 8 and we all know the reason for that. There’s a big difference between [Deshaun] Watson and [Jacoby] Brissett, and it’s about a game and a half.
The Bears opened 6.5 over -120 and it’s currently 6 under -130, but there’s a certain amount of optimism surrounding the Lions and Vikings and still around the Packers. The one team that’s not getting any support in the NFC North is the Bears. There’s just not a lot of positive thoughts surrounding [Justin] Fields and the Bears this season.
The Eagles have gone from 9 over -140 to 9.5 over -150. [There’s] a lot of skepticism on the Cowboys and the Giants. The one team that’s getting some positive vibes in the NFC East are the Eagles. The main reason is they had a terrific draft. Jalen Hurts behind that offensive line and some of the additions they have on defense, I can understand the support that they’re getting.
The Lions are getting a lot of support. [Dan] Campbell’s a very interesting coach. As far as educated play, a lot of people look at them and say they lost a lot of close games last year. They blew some games that were very winnable. I think we opened at 6 over -130. That number has become 6.5 over -140.
Have bettors been hammering the under on the Seahawks at 5.5 wins? And how much action is that Denver-Seattle (+6) Monday Night Football opener seeing relative to other games?
There’s not a lot of positive things coming out of Seattle right now. They don’t even know who their starting quarterback is, and that’s always a red flag. I don’t know if they’re going to be able to overcome poor QB play with the team they have. The NFL’s a quarterback’s league and that’s a big question mark with Seattle.
We opened 3.5 on the Monday night game and a lot of us thought we opened low. I really wish I had a recording of that [trading team] meeting because we said it was going to go to 6, and here we are — it’s at 6. It’s not so much betting on the Broncos as it’s betting against the Seahawks.
I’m kind of surprised that you and others only have the Bengals priced at 20/1 to win the Super Bowl. Why aren’t their odds shorter? Is it mainly based on how hard it is to get back into that game?
It’s a combination of things. First of all, the AFC is probably the strongest we’ve seen that conference in a long, long time. There are 10 teams that could come out of the AFC. That 20/1 is a reflection of the balance we have in the AFC heading into the season, not to mention repeating is always going to be tough because they’ve got a target on their backs.
The Raiders are also at 20/1. How much does their hometown status influence that line?
For some reason, there are a lot of bets coming in on the Raiders. There’s no hometown discount. They are by far our biggest liability coming into the season, and not just in Nevada. Any time a local team has a lot of positive things coming out of camp, there’s going to be liability attached to that team.
But they haven’t really exhibited championship form heading into the season, and with the amount of competition we see in the AFC, they’ve still got to jump over a few mountains. I’m not saying that they can’t — it’s just so wide open. But they’ve certainly got support across the country.
Kenny Pickett is a 6/1 favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. Does this price indicate that you expect him to start the regular season as Pittsburgh’s QB1, or do you figure that might take until midseason?
I think [Mitchell] Trubisky is going to be the starter, but I don’t think it will last very long. I think Kenny Pickett is going to take over, maybe by the end of September. And that’s why his odds are down there. I don’t expect the Trubisky train to be rolling by the end of September.
At 12/1, Dan Campbell is your co-favorite to win Coach of the Year. Has his priced shortened considerably since HBO’s Hard Knocks began airing? Have people been betting him a lot more than other coaches?
Yeah, there are a lot of tickets on Campbell. You could probably attribute that to Hard Knocks. He’s a very interesting coach, but it’s a team on the rise. There are a lot of good things coming out of Detroit, which is something we haven’t heard in a while.
It’s almost like it’s setting up for Campbell to be Coach of the Year. It’s not like they have to win the division or make a deep run in the playoffs. I feel like they could win 8 or 9 games and he could take the trophy home, whereas the others would have to make it to a higher level to bring home that hardware.
Have you taken any large wagers on NFL or college football futures that have been particularly surprising or noteworthy?
We haven’t got too many five-figure futures bets. You don’t normally see them until later in the year, but as far as the NFL, despite Trubisky and what we just talked about, one of the bigger bets was $3,000 at 80/1 on the Steelers [to win the Super Bowl]. About three weeks ago, we took $15,000 on the Chargers at 14/1. The Bucs — $4,000 at 25/1. I think that was right before Brady announced he was coming back. That’s why they were 25/1.
Like a lot of books, your odds indicate that the national championship is a three-horse race featuring Alabama, Ohio State, and Georgia. Outside of Utah State, are there any longshots you’ve taken a surprising amount of action on?
We took $500 on Ole Miss at 200/1. We also took $1,000 on Wisconsin at 80/1. Pitt — we took $1,000 on them at 500/1. I don’t think we’re gonna be big Pittsburgh fans this year.
We see it as a three-horse race. Clemson’s at 12/1, there’s some support for [Texas] A&M at 20/1, but other than that, there are really no contenders. People bet a lot on USC. They opened at 40/1. They’re down to 25/1. LSU is actually our biggest move — they went from 200/1 down to 60/1.
We did put up a proposition: Will it be Alabama and Ohio State in the championship game? The no was -450, the yes was +375. They’re starting to bet the yes now. The no is now -410, yes is +340.
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