Despite Sketchy Bout, UFC Maintains Appeal

Despite Sketchy Bout, UFC Maintains Appeal

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.

You’ve said before that UFC is the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. sports betting market. Has this continued unchecked since the Nuerdanbieke-Minner bout? 

The volume level and the interest continue to grow. There have been some discussions about that particular fight, but it’s not holding anyone back.

What do you make of various Canadian provinces’ decision to at least temporarily ban wagering on the entire sport in the wake of one controversial bout?

It looks like it was just a very unfortunate, isolated incident at this time. We have a trainer that released some information that he probably shouldn’t have, but I don’t think there’s any reason to prohibit wagering on UFC.

Is there anything, in your opinion, that the UFC could do differently to put at ease Canadian regulators or those in new betting states who might have some queasiness about the sport’s betting integrity?

The other leagues — NHL, NFL — I know they do have a lot of training that goes into preventing leaks or those situations. The NFL has a great injury report — they’re obligated to tell everybody who’s in, who’s out, and give updates on those injuries. We’ve always said transparency is our friend, where if everybody knows, it’s for the best. But when you have a select few that know that information, you can run into problems.

With that said, again, it’s just an isolated incident. I don’t see any major concerns going forward, but it’s something they might want to look at — trainers being obligated to disclose that type of information. On the other side of that, they may not want the other fighter to know his shoulder is sore. I get the other side of it, but if it’s to a level where the guy shouldn’t be fighting, there’s that line that can be drawn there. It’s not a thick one. It’s a thin one. 

He’s being accused of leaking that information out to gamblers to bet on it. That’s certainly something that they can address. If any trainer or anyone in a camp is leaking out information or gambling benefits, you are subject to being banned for life or some type of fine.

There have been a handful of well-known situations in the four major sports that have drawn nowhere near this amount of backlash among regulators. Do you think the UFC being a newer, edgier sport might hurt it in the eyes of some regulators?

There have been situations in other major sports that have leaked out that shouldn’t have, but did we ever entertain banning that sport? We did not. We’re on the side of all these events to be fair and true. We don’t want to be taking bets on something that’s “fixed” or with some information that’s leaked out that would affect one’s performance drastically. Crossing that line and giving that information so others can benefit from it, there should be harsh penalties.

Which pro leagues have the most airtight internal gambling policies or sharing of information policies, in your opinion?

The mandates the NFL has with their injuries, it’s hard to compare theirs versus the others. So I’d have to say the NFL is probably the best at it, but the others do a very adequate job. That goes with training and classes — I know they educate the players and they educate the staff. The NFL’s transparency, I’d say, is second to none.

Now the NBA, all these players sitting out, that’s a little concerning. You have to keep an eye on these games every night. Now that certain players are resting or sitting more often than they have in the past, it’s certainly keeping us on our toes.

Has the SuperBook ever made an independent decision not to accept wagering on a certain sport, player, or event due to integrity concerns?

Nothing on the major front. We have some concerns about third-tier sports, whether it’s lower-level tennis or soccer leagues or even Russian ping-pong or even esports. They come across some issues. I’m not saying it’s rampant, I’m just saying they have had some issues in those sports compared to the major ones we’re used to.

Mini-golf and slap fighting — the latter of which is connected to the UFC — are a few fringe sports that have recently been cleared for legal wagering in some U.S. jurisdictions. What sort of criteria does the SuperBook take into account while deciding if and when to offer wagering on a newly available sport?   

We’ll have to look into how it’s regulated, how well it’s monitored to a level that would be comforting to us to post on the board. Our main concern with those type of sports is who’s going to wager on it? Is it something the general public is going to want so that you have pretty level betting demographics? Or is it just going to be the wise guys who pick and chose what fighters — slappers? — to wager on. If the general public is crying for it, we’ll look into it, but if it’s something only the more knowledgeable people in the slapping world are going to wager on, there’s a good chance we won’t offer it.

Art by Blundell Design

Author: Ryan Gonzales