The Las Vegas Golden Knights just cashed another bunch of big tickets with Sunday afternoon’s 2-1 win at Winnipeg to win the Western Conference 4 games to 1, which paid out as high as 250-to-1 before the season started.
It’s one of what’s becoming a long list of winning bets on the home team during the Knights’ inaugural season. But the big cash ball is still waiting, simmering and hovering daily in front of each sportsbook director. They all are rooting for the home team, but sometimes a rooting interest can have limitations when messing with your end of season bonus.
From most accounts around town, should the Golden Knights hoist the Stanley Cup it would turn out to be a loss in the multi-millions. The expansion team was opened 500-1 before the season.
Last month MGM Resorts sportsbook hub manager Jeff Stoneback said if the Golden Knights won it would be the worst futures loss he’s ever seen. Jeff has been in the business almost 30 years on the Strip, dealing the largest futures business in the state.
When you think back to all the big futures tickets cashing over the years, there really isn’t that many. The NBA never has any upsets –Celtics getting Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen together in 2007-08 (30/1) caught some bookmakers napping in the summer. The NHL normally doesn’t have many people betting it to create high risk though a risky moment occurred with Kurt Warner’s Rams paying 125-to-1 in 2000.
MLB futures are a bit different because there’s always a couple teams that have high risk because of being such a long season and a few books not updating the futures daily, but doing it weekly. A big run can happen for a team during a week. The 1987 Twins crushed most books in town at 300-1 and the Twins (70/1) did it again in 1991 when they beat the Braves (125/1) who were also very super-risky, putting books in a no-win situation for the series.
The biggest MLB futures gaffe happened in 2011 when several books posted the Cardinals as high as 500-1 to win the World Series and 250-1 to win the NLCS. Odds were pushed up so high in late August when the Cards were 10.5 games behind the final wild card slot. Lots of takers for both those options. It was an amazing Cardinals comeback and most bookmakers, including Stoneback at MGM Resorts, tell me the Cardinals winning is the worst loss they’ve ever seen in futures.
Now to be clear with the Golden Knights, there weren’t a lot of takers getting 500-1. It just sounds more magnificent for announcers and writers to say. Westgate SuperBook sent out a tweet clarifying just how much risk they had at 500-1, saying “Highest Stanley Cup odds on Golden Knights we had was 500/1 during preseason and before Game 1 of the regular season… 13 tickets ranging from $10 to $60.”
I think the bulk of the risk sitting out there ranges from 40-1 up to 100-1. Did most bettors think the Golden Knights could win? Probably not. It was a cool souvenir to grab for someone back home. “Look what I got you when I was in Las Vegas, a 100-to-1 bet on the Golden Knights to win the Stanley Cup in their first year.”
And then we have our rabid bettors in the city who have been all in with support of the new team even if they never watched or bet hockey before. It’s all about Vegas as a community. Now they have a reason to watch, so those typical local bettors are getting a piece of the action as well. Meanwhile, the risk just kept building and building. Bookmakers kept dropping the price and bettors still kept betting as they caught playoff fever.
Station Casinos said the heck with the risk, we’ve got Golden Knights fever too and we’re going to use it as a promotion to get our guests through the door. They gave thousands of $5 futures tickets at 4-to-1 odds away in a promotion for all their slot club members.
Now the Golden Knights are only four wins away from bringing the house down. What does the bookmaker do to protect that house, which is their main objective?
Conventional bookmaking would let the chips fall as they may. You don’t alter proper prices of individual games or a series price to offset risk from another future entity. Westgate SuperBook manager Ed Salmons said if the Golden Knights’ opponents were Tampa Bay, the Lightning would be -140 to -150 and if it’s Washington, Vegas would be -130 or -140 against the Capitals.
I’m sure with seven figures of risk lighting up the bookmaking screen, conventional bookmaking is going to be altered and we’ll see some amazing prices around town on whoever the Golden Knights play with the book trying to bait you in, or make you pay way over what market should be by playing the Knights again.
The problem with adjusting true too much to shave off a few hundred thousand is if the Golden Knights don’t win, you just gave away a few hundred thousand by baiting, and the futures money won by the Golden Knights losing doesn’t equal the amount paid out. The risk is in the millions, not the actual bets made.
It’s an amazing dilemma each book is going to have to deal with and this process will be discussed with the GM and president of the casino so they’re in the loop and okay with the strategy about to be employed.
If the bookmaker knows the risk of a situation and doesn’t do anything about it, then they’re gambling, not necessarily bookmaking or protecting the house. If the president of the company is cool with gambling with house money, and many of them are in big games, then let it roll.
I believe the proper thing to do here is shave off a little on the series price and then regroup in a clinching game on the game price. Don’t give away too much while chopping off about 20 percent of the risk. Easier said than done.
To all my friends around town dealing with this dilemma, good luck with your strategy this week.