After finishing off the Winnipeg Jets in five games to win the NHL’s Western Conference, the Vegas Golden Knights are going to the Stanley Cup final.
Hockey’s newest franchise will face the Washington Capitals, a historically star-crossed squad that has never won the Cup over 41 years of playoff futility.
And if the quintessential underdogs – Vegas’ roster was assembled less than one year ago through an expansion draft – can secure the Cup, they’ll deal a crushing blow to local sportsbooks in the process.
When the NHL preseason began back in October, the Westgate Superbook posted the Golden Knights at 300 to 1 to win the Cup – putting the local longshots squarely at the bottom of the futures betting board. But when the wagers didn’t start pouring in immediately, Jay Kornegay – who serves as race and sports director for the Westgate Superbook – decided to sweeten the pot with 500 to 1 odds.
As Kornegay recounted in an interview with the Los Angeles Times last month – conducted shortly after the Knights swept the L.A. Kings out of the playoffs’ first round – his book took in a baker’s dozen worth of bets at the longest odds:
“I just looked at this today – and it’s the first time I did – and we have 13 bets on the Knights at 500 to 1.
Small dollars, we call them ‘grocery dollars’; the biggest was $20.”
Even priced at “grocery dollars,” however, that $20 ticket could be worth $10,000 if the Golden Knights win four more games.
The Westgate Superbook isn’t the only operator on the hook for heavy losses. Jay Rood, the race and sportsbook director for MGM Resorts, told the Los Angeles Times that his network of books lining The Strip also accepted action at 500 to 1.
Doug Kezirian, a gambling industry reporter with ESPN, posted a tweet on May 20 – the day Vegas advanced to the Stanley Cup final – listing the largest liabilities held by local sportsbooks.
Per Kezirian, CG Technology – which powers sportsbooks at the Venetian and M Resort among other Vegas properties – could pay out $100,000 to a single bettor holding a $500 ticket at 200 to 1.
The South Point Hotel and Casino took a $400 wager at 150 to 1, exposing the book to a $60,000 potential payout.
The Golden Nugget Las Vegas has a $250 ticket at 200 to 1 outstanding, while William Hill US took $1,000 at 50 to 1. Both bets would return $50,000 on a Golden Knights championship.
The largest single liability reported by Kezirian – $400 at 300 to 1 for a $120,000 win – is held by the Westgate Superbook.
Jim Murphy of the industry website Sports Betting Experts recently spoke with Forbes to discuss the extent of Las Vegas’ exposure on the city’s first professional sports franchise:
“It could still end up being the biggest futures loss in Las Vegas history.
In my experience, it’s unprecedented.
I’d have to go back to the 2011 Daytona 500, where Trevor Bayne won at 80-1 odds to find anything remotely close, but even so restrictor-plate racing produces longshot winners now and then.”
As for Kornegay – who proudly counts himself among the first Las Vegas locals to put down a deposit on season tickets – despite his book’s liability on the longshot, he’s still hoping to see the Knights hoist the Cup:
“We’re fans of the team, but we know in the long run, business will take care of itself.
For me, it’s like, ‘Well, if my team wins, they win. But if they don’t, at least we saved ourselves at the book.’”