March Madness is upon us, and Las Vegas sports betting industry veteran Jay Kornegay is in the midst of heavy action on the NCAA Tournament.
“Bets are coming in all the time,” Kornegay, VP of Race and Sportsbook Operations at the Westgate SuperBook, told Gaming Today on Monday.
The SuperBook has futures liability on Arizona, UCLA, Duke, Illinois, and Texas, Kornegay noted. He added that early sharp money on underdogs dropped the lines for Virginia Tech against Texas (Hokies opened +2, bet to +1), and Jacksonville State against Auburn (Gamecocks from +17 to +15.5) at his shop.
We interviewed Kornegay to get his take on more than just the NCAA Tournament. The respected bookmaker makes it a habit to speak with guests staying and gambling at the Westgate. The venue is sold out for March Madness, and Kornegay thinks that trend will continue. Sports betting is now legal in 30 states along with the District of Columbia, but business in Nevada has never been better, even with sportsbooks such as DraftKings, BetMGM, and FanDuel operating across the country.
“Ultimately, they want to visit the mecca of sports betting, which is Las Vegas,” he said.
Kornegay offers his thoughts on everything from line-making to limits and more in this exclusive interview with Gaming Today.
Working For A Market Maker At Westgate SuperBook
Gaming Today: How much enjoyment do you get from being a market maker in Las Vegas? Is there any pressure that comes with posting the first odds on a game?
Jay Kornegay: I don’t think there’s any pressure at all. We just want to get it right. We have a lot of enjoyment in that and a lot of confidence in our numbers. I won’t say it comes naturally, but we value each other’s thoughts, opinions, and rankings when we sit around and discuss those numbers. We’re very comfortable with our conclusion on what that opening number will be. It’s fun for us and challenging, but we certainly have all the confidence in the world that our numbers are very solid. I will be the first one to admit that they’re not always right. They can run a little bit (laughs).
GT: What is Westgate’s policy when it comes to limits on bets?
Kornegay: We don’t want people to get turned away or think that they can’t get more (action). So, we always talk to them and ask what they want. We’re flexible with that rather than just stating the limit. We like to be open-minded. We have a minimum that they can always get down on, and it varies by sport. But getting more than that, we’ll have to discuss. We’ve never had any issues … it has worked out for three decades, so we’re pretty good with that.
GT: Does a customer’s history at the Westgate factor into limits?
Kornegay: We will always try to accommodate those players whether they have a long history with us or if they’re just coming in from off the street.
Business Is Booming In Las Vegas
GT: Have you seen any residual effects of legalization across so many states on your bottom line at the Westgate?
Kornegay: There was a lot of concern out here, especially for those that weren’t looking to expand operations outside of Nevada. We automatically thought it was an opportunity to expand the SuperBook brand outside Nevada, which we have done and continue to work on today (SuperBook USA also operates in New Jersey and Colorado). The numbers here at the SuperBook have set records. Sports betting is more popular than ever, but the expansion hasn’t hurt Las Vegas. It’s actually helped us, as the numbers have proven over the last couple of years. We wrote more in 2021 than we did in any other year across the board.
Also read: March Madness handle projections for Nevada
GT: Were you surprised at the pace of the industry’s growth nationally?
Kornegay: We knew sports betting was very popular, whether it was in Nevada or elsewhere. I guess some of the numbers exceeded our expectations but not by much. The entertainment value of betting sports is tremendous, especially when we were going through this pandemic. People could wager on a sporting event from their home and be entertained for three hours.
GT: The entertainment aspect is undeniable. What else would you tell newer sports bettors?
Kornegay: When you’ve got the Titans and Jaguars playing on Thursday night, who’s going to watch that? But you put $20 on it, yeah, now you’ve got my interest. As long as they understand that it is a source of entertainment, and you’re gonna win some and you’re gonna lose some. It’s very challenging to win (over the long-term), but if you look at the hold percentages that sportsbooks do end up holding, it’s very low versus other gambling offerings.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for the sake of brevity and clarity.
Also read: March Madness upset alert | March Madness bracket tips | March Madness sportsbook bonuses | Six-figure bets at DraftKings | NCAA Tournament first-round betting lines | Futures odds for all 68 teams | Women’s tourney odds | How to read March Madness odds