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]bettercollective.com. The Q&A below has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Let’s talk trades — specifically, how you and your SuperBook colleagues function as league-mandated deadlines approach. Will you beef up your staffing level above the norm for a day or two or just temporarily redirect some employees’ areas of focus?
All our antennas are up. We’re following all the news outlets. Our main news outlet is Twitter these days, and it has been for the last five or six years. Most of us have Twitter decks set up that we monitor. I’ve got such a great staff. I’m very fortunate because a lot of the guys do this on their own time. They’re always looking at things as well. You’ve got to follow the top beat writers and filter out all the noise to get the right information.
How quickly will you adjust a team’s futures odds based on a credible rumor that they’re about to acquire a player who could help them?
We hear the whispers. We understand the leading candidates for where a particular player might land. Those odds that are posted on the board right now, all those odds have built in the probability of that particular player landing there at that moment.
It also varies by sport. Because baseball is such a team game, a guy like [Juan] Soto’s not going to have the same kind of impact [Kevin] Durant would have or LeBron [James] or somebody like that, where they can change the face of a franchise. So it does depend on the level of the player, of course, but also the sport.
Are there sports where the addition of a single elite player has more of an impact on odds adjustments than others?
It’s not the sport, it’s the position — quarterback, of course. Last year, there were a lot of rumors surrounding [Aaron] Rodgers and [Russell] Wilson. I fell for this one, actually, maybe because I’m a Broncos fan. I really thought Rodgers [was going to the Broncos] because it came from a reliable source that we have a lot of respect for. I actually drained a couple of my phone accounts because that’s how much I believed.
How do you feel about the consolation prize, Russell Wilson?
It’s hilarious because I have a number of friends in the Seattle area and they’re all Seahawk fans. I didn’t really hear detrimental things surrounding Wilson until he was traded. I was like, “Wait, where did you guys come from all of a sudden? He’s a piece of crap and he’s washed up?”
Is there a noticeable uptick in sharp play as trade deadlines approach, and how much can a frenzy of bettor behavior on one side of a wager influence how you adjust your team futures in these instances?
We see an uptick in sharp play when they get some really reliable information. Is that so much closer to the deadline? It’s when they get information that we might not have, which happens. We understand that.
With Wilson, all of a sudden we’ve got some of these guys coming in and betting on Broncos futures — there’s a good chance that somebody is going to Denver. Some of the sharps give us clarity on that.
Temporarily shutting down markets to reset odds after a series of results is common practice in the sportsbook industry. Is that a tactic you employ around trade deadlines so that you can get a firm handle on the odds you’re laying before taking serious action?
Yeah. We have the [Cleveland] Browns down right now. We’re waiting to see if [Deshaun] Watson is going to play or not and, I mean, it looks like he’s going to get suspended. But until we get a clear indication of what is going to transpire in Cleveland, we’re not posting that yet.
Can you think of an example of a player movement that either left you exposed to a ton of liability or caused you to dramatically adjust a team’s futures odds in a short window of time?
When [Tom] Brady unretired, I mean, guys were getting 60/1 on the Buccaneers. And what are they now? They’re 6/1. So those guys that got 60/1 — pretty good deal. Luckily for us, they still have to win it.
Durant’s current situation is an interesting one because it’s anyone’s guess as to when, where, or even whether he might get shipped out of Brooklyn. How does the SuperBook react to news that a superstar player with multiple years left on his contract has requested a trade, but his team has no real incentive to move him in a timely manner?
I mean, it’s not like we’re going to raise the Nets because there’s a chance he might not play for Brooklyn. My guys are very good at this — these are the top teams that would probably be the landing spot for Durant. We’re all on Twitter; we’re all sharing information. I’ve just got a lot of sports-crazed friends and co-workers and we’re always sending each other tweets that are out there in the world saying, “Wow, he really likes Miami.”
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