The Bottom Of the NFL’s Popularity Barrel

ask bookmaker jay kornegay

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, and all odds were current as of Thursday, Sept. 8 — a few hours before the NFL season kicked off with the Bills’ win over the Rams.

We talked about it in the last edition of “Ask a Bookmaker” and you talked about it on the Gamble On podcast, but there have been major dollars coming in on the Raiders to win the Super Bowl. How much have Nevada bettors had to do with that trend and what’s the retail/mobile wagering split among these bettors?

Overall, mobile in Nevada, it represents about 73% of our total handle. So I’m guessing that would be very close to the breakdown of those Raider tickets. I just looked at the future book — all jurisdictions, not just Nevada — but since Nevada is such a huge market for us, it really sways toward the Raider bias. 

But we also have quite a bit of liability on teams like the Steelers, the Titans. The Titans are interesting because the last couple of years, they’ve kind of been the wise-guy, sexy pick and we don’t know why. It certainly isn’t the betting public. From what we see, it’s mostly educated players or sharps that have supported Tennessee.

Some of the others we have liability on are the Patriots, the Buccaneers — we took some sizable wagers on them before [Tom] Brady made his announcement [to come out of retirement]. I wasn’t upset. I just said it’s very obvious someone had information on Brady’s announcement prior to him announcing it. I understand most educated sports bettors base their bets off information, whether it’s stats, algorithms, or news that they hear. 

In this case, it was information that was out there to a select few. Because of the way it was bet across the country in a way that bets were correlated to take place at the same time, there was a group out there that must have hit most, if not all, jurisdictions on the Bucs. All of a sudden we started taking all these bets on the Bucs to win the Super Bowl.

This isn’t the first time it’s happened with Brady information. Prior to him announcing he was going to Tampa Bay, the same thing happened. Three days before he announced he was going to Tampa Bay, we took a wave of future bets on the Buccaneers.

The Bills and Buccaneers are a couple of other teams that have been getting a lot of support among Super Bowl bettors, but that’s to be expected, given that they’re the two favorites. Who are some 20/1 to 40/1 shots that are getting a lot of support so far and what are the reasons why?

Philly. You always have the popular teams and the Cowboys and Broncos would be slotted in that group. The general public teams that always seem to get action no matter where they’re ranked are the Chiefs, the Cowboys, the Packers, the Raiders, Steelers.

With the Patriots, it normally happens, but this year it’s tailed off a bit. The Browns used to always be part of that group, but over the last two years, they’ve dropped out of it. I think Browns fans finally gave up on them. 

The least-bet teams are the Jets, then right behind them the Panthers. Prior to [Zach] Wilson’s injury, there was optimism surrounding the Jets. Even if he might miss one or zero games, he’s not 100 percent. I think the sweetness surrounding the Jets became a little sour because the backup (Joe Flacco) is not very good.

The Jaguars seem to be one of the teams that get very little support year in and year out. Obviously if we operated in Florida, that might change a little bit. The Texans and Falcons are also in the bottom of the popularity barrel.

What teams’ Super Bowl odds have you adjusted the most since the market opened?

We opened the Eagles at 40/1, they got as high as 50/1 in March, and have now dropped down to 25/1. The Buccaneers are ridiculous. We opened them at 50/1, got as high as 60/1 in March. Then March 10, it dropped from 60/1 down to 16/1. That was Thursday. Still no announcement made. He didn’t announce it until that Sunday, the 13th. The 13th, we went from 16/1 down to 10/1. They got as low as 5/1, now they’re back to 7/1. They’re a loser for us, for sure, but they’re our seventh-largest liability.

Who are the top six?

In order, the Raiders, Steelers, Titans, Chargers, Patriots, Chiefs, and Bucs.

So the Bills aren’t in there?

The reason why they’re not in there is the odds were low. They opened at 7/1, got as high as 8/1, and now they’re at 6/1.

It’s a little surprising to see the Titans sitting at 50/1, given how good they were at full strength last season. Does this have a lot to due with the offseason depletion of their receiving corps or is there something more to it?

They lost their wideouts. We opened them at 20/1, and even though they’re one of our biggest liabilities, they’re currently sitting at 50/1. As we go through the offseason, information and wagers are the two biggest influences on these odds. And by information, I mean losing free agents, injuries, the status of some of the players coming back. Like Derrick Henry sounds like he should be OK, but [Ravens RB] J.K. Dobbins is definitely not 100 percent. Therefore, the odds were kept a little lower because it looked like he was going to be fine, but a lot of people are high on Lamar Jackson [in a] contract year.

The Patriots at 60/1 also seems like a pretty fat preseason price, whereas you’ve got the Dolphins at 40/1. Could their odds potentially flip if New England wins in Miami on opening weekend?

Sure. Depends how they win. Was it a solid performance or was it because [Miami QB] Tua [Tagovailoa] threw four interceptions or they fumbled at the last second? If it’s a dominating performance and they dominate statistically, it could flip. But if it’s kind of a fluky, balanced game and the Patriots kick a winning field goal, it probably won’t flip. It’s not just about wins and losses — it’s about the statistics within the game.

Art by Blundell Design

Author: Ryan Gonzales