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.
How many weeks of low scoring in the NFL did it take for your trading team to start suspecting this wasn’t exactly a fluke?
We started discussing it about Week 3, that it looked like the defenses had the upper hand. But we dismissed it as a small sample. Well, now we’re into six weeks. There’s certainly a change that’s taking place in the NFL where the defenses have the advantage. We haven’t put our finger on it, but we can see how the defenses have adjusted to some of the rules that were implemented just a few years ago that favored the offenses.
Defenseless receiver wasn’t part of our world five years ago. Some of those hits were allowed. Now they are not. They got into the mode about four to six years ago of protecting players — and they all were protecting the offensive players. That really opened up the middle. A lot of receivers were hesitant to go over the middle or dropped passes because they were concerned about getting their clocks cleaned. Somehow the defenses have adjusted to that and their coverages have been able to take away the over-the-middle throws once again without being penalized for it.
Have you guys been losing money on the under or have you managed to shift your lines properly to reduce potential liability?
It’s actually been very good for us. There has been more educated play on the unders, especially in recent weeks, but the public tends to bet the overs. That’s just something they can’t resist. Everybody likes scoring. We’ve actually done pretty well on totals, especially some of the marquee games. Bills and Chiefs, everybody had the over on that game.
Have you tightened spreads as a result of the low-scoring trend or are spreads relatively immune to that type of trend?
The numbers have come in a lot lower in recent weeks. It’s not so much because of lower scoring, but because there’s such parity in the league. These teams that were projected to struggle this year are playing well and vice versa. You’ve got the Packers and Buccaneers and Broncos basically puking on themselves out there.
Have you shifted futures odds to favor better defenses?
We’re not just focusing on the defenses. We always encompass the whole team. Some of these teams are really playing very well. Maybe outside the Panthers, I don’t know if there’s anybody out there with a team where you can just say, ‘Yep, we’re gonna win that one’ and move on. And even the Panthers might give you a fight. The parity and changes that we’ve seen in the first six weeks, we’re always adjusting based on what we’ve seen and what is left on their schedule — and that is a very fluid situation as these weeks play out.
Has the crummy offense done anything to dampen NFL handle week-to-week or have NFL bettors shown a great degree of resilience? Are you concerned that lower-scoring games could hurt betting handle in terms of offensive player props or other markets?
NFL is king. It doesn’t really matter. People will complain about it, like the game (Broncos-Chargers) [Monday] night. People are tired of the Broncos being on prime time. I totally get that point, but they’re still watching. You certainly haven’t seen it in the numbers. The numbers are as strong as ever. Americans love football and Americans love betting football. That hasn’t changed.
The NFL forcing us to watch Russell Wilson in Primetime 💀 pic.twitter.com/PR0MiHrP1I
— betr (@betr) October 18, 2022
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