Westgate SuperBook Executive Vice President Jay Kornegay has been surprised at what’s been unfolding on his property’s massive menu of proposition offerings over the past seven or eight days.
Of all the exceptional talent that will be on the SoFi Stadium field Sunday in Super Bowl LVI, it is Cincinnati rookie kicker Evan “Money Mac” McPherson who is the biggest danger to the SuperBook’s bottom line.
“I know it’s crazy, but he’s the ticket leader for MVP,” says Kornegay. “We took some sizeable bets on him at 200-to-1, 100-1 and, last I looked, 80-1. I know we took a thousand-dollar wager on him at 80-1 in Colorado.
“I’m like, ‘What’s this infatuation with McPherson?’ I know he’s good. He never misses. But for him to win MVP, it would have to be a 15-12 game and he kicks five fields goals or something.”
Kornegay laughs. He’s poking at his computer, scanning all of the names and numbers. The Westgate produced a 32-page tome of props and odds and angles, and he’s scanning for the latest figures on McPherson.
The Alabama native and rookie out of Florida was picked by the Bengals in the fifth round of last spring’s draft, and none other than Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow deigned upon the 5-foot-10 kicker the catchy nickname for his clutch skills.
He authored five game-winning field goals this season, including two in overtime playoff situations. Right before kicking Tennessee out of the divisional round, he calmly stood and said, “Welp, looks like we’re going to the AFC Championship Game.”
The ball sailed through the uprights.
In the playoffs, McPherson is 12-for-12, and he’s made 20 of the past 21 field goals he’s attempted.
As Kornegay scans, I blurt out that it would be funny if McPherson’s MVP odds had been bet down to something like 5-1. Uh, no it wouldn’t. Says Kornegay, “No, I hope not.”
“I’m not too concerned about it. But whenever you have some liability like that, that could create some damage … When the Patriots beat the Rams [in 2017], what was it? Yeah, 13-3. The field-goal kicker got two of those, but he wasn’t even considered for MVP. It was Tom Brady, so …
“Let’s see. McPherson is now tied for second-most tickets. [Rams defensive lineman] Aaron Donald is No. 1, at 14-1. McPherson is down to 60-1, after opening at 200-1.”
The house liability is on Money Mac.
“It’s just one game,” says Kornegay, “so anything can happen.”
(Each team’s records, overall and ATS.)
Los Angeles Rams (15-5, 10-10) at Cincinnati Bengals (13-7, 13-7)
BetMGM Line: Rams -4, Total 48.5
Around Vegas, oddsmakers still had the game between 4 and 4.5 points, in favor of the Rams, through Thursday.
At Green Valley Ranch, one of the many Station Casino properties that ring the city, when someone risked $110,000 on Cincinnati +4.5 at about 1 p.m. local time, Stations swiftly shifted back to 4.
The total was holding steadily at 48.5, but the annual rush was expected to hit town late Thursday and continue into Saturday.
The Thursday lifting of a mask mandate might help boost business, but several book directors said Nevada’s record handle might have truly been threatened had that been extinguished a few weeks ago, giving more people time to arrange trips.
In 2018, in Philadelphia’s thrilling 41-33 victory over New England, the Silver State established a standard with $158.6 million in Super Bowl business.
DraftKings was dealing Rams -4 (-115) as of Friday morning.
“I like where I’m positioned right now,” says DraftKings Sportsbook Director Johnny Avello from Arizona, where he’s taking in the WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale.
“We’re a little heavy on Cincinnati, but that’s okay,” he said. “We have a long way to go yet, as 80 to 85 percent of the money will be coming in over the next couple of days.”
BetMGM Director of Trading Jeff Stoneback gauges as much as 90 percent of his business, at its nine Vegas properties, to be conducted from Thursday evening right up to kickoff.
He has seen more tickets written on the Bengals, at a 6-to-5 rate. The money was nearly even, with the Rams having a slight edge by virtue of two six-figure wagers on L.A. giving the points.
Usually, by late Friday, the number of six-figure wagers is a tell-tale signal of what’s coming, and whether a record Super Bowl handle might be in jeopardy of falling.
“Usually, it’s a lot higher” than two, says Stoneback. “Usually, we have [casino] hosts saying, ‘I got a guy who wants this much money on the game.’ I’ve gotten a lot fewer requests on inquiries for large wagers.”
Kornegay projects a handle more in line with last year’s $136.1 million, fifth on the all-time chart.
“I think we’ll come close to, or surpass, last year’s figure. If that mask mandate had been overturned two weeks ago, everyone would have had time to make plans. Then I’d have been very confident we’d surpass last year’s numbers.”
A Hog-Wild Affair?
Not only was Kornegay’s prop list hundreds deep, but the Westgate also offers a $100 props contest, featuring 30 options on a parlay-type card where patrons can pick one side or the other.
He hasn’t contemplated how the game might play out.
“Not really,” he said. “We just take it as it comes in. I do think it’ll be a very balanced game. I was a little concerned there would be an avalanche of Rams money, but there’s been plenty of Bengals supporters out there, a lot more than I had anticipated.”
Seventy percent of tickets written at the SuperBook have been on Cincinnati plus the points, which Kornegay expected (and has witnessed) on the moneyline.
“I think that’ll come down a bit once we get into the weekend,” he said. “Right now, they’re betting the ‘under,’ too. If history tells us anything, they’ll come in and bet the ‘over’. I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes back up to 49, but not much more than that.”
Avello has toyed with a script.
“It looks like it could be a low-scoring game,” he says. “But I’ve seen enough Super Bowls to know that sometimes things just totally fall apart—a runback, a TD, a fumble, someone scored quickly. All that stuff.
“And the game just goes absolutely hog-wild.”
Sharps Are On The ‘Under’
At the South Point, sportsbook director Chris Andrews opened the game at 4, nudged it to 4.5 for a while, then returned to 4.
“I didn’t expect much movement,” he says. “It’s kind of in a dead area—not 3 or 7. I didn’t think it would move a whole lot, so I’m not real surprised.”
He adds, “I don’t think the game will go to 5. I could see the total going to 49, for sure, once the public comes in; they love betting the ‘over’. But the sharp guys are definitely on the ‘under’ in this game.”
Andrews notes an abundance of action on the Rams’ defense to record ‘over’ 2.5 sacks at -140, ‘under’ 2.5 sacks at -130 for the Bengals’ defense, and ‘over’ 4.5 sacks, at -140, for total QB sacks in the game.
Burrow was sacked nine times at Tennessee, on Jan. 22, but only once in the AFC title game in Kansas City. Over the Bengals’ past nine games, he has been sacked 37 times. Cincinnati’s defense has recorded eight QB sacks in three playoff games.
Until it didn’t collect a single sack against San Francisco in the NFC title game, the Rams’ defense had registered 25 over an eight-game stretch.
“Those are the ones with the most action,” says Andrews. “To tell you the truth, we have a ton of action all over the place, but those are probably the biggest ones.”
Mack Is Back
Late Thursday afternoon, Eastern time, Caesars Sportsbook sliced the Rams’ spread to -3.5. There was an announcement, via ESPN, that it did so for 24 hours, “to see what Rams money is out there.”
One Vegas book director read between those lines.
Introducing Jim McIngvale, better known in the gambling world as Mattress Mack, the savvy bedspring mogul with a net worth of $300 million. His seven-figure wagers in recent years might have paid for themselves in advertising, promotions and marketing.
On Feb. 3, the Houston resident drove to Louisiana, which legalized sports betting a week earlier. Mack wagered $4,534,000 on the Bengals, at +170 on the moneyline, to win $7.7M.
He reportedly executed those wagers in $20,000 increments, culminating in the largest mobile bet in history. It fell short of the supposed largest Super Bowl bet ever placed, a $4.9M wager on the 2002 game between New England and the St. Louis Rams.
“The Joe Burrow magic is pulling fans in, especially in Louisiana with his college roots,” said Ken Fuchs, head of sports for Caesars Sportsbook, of the former LSU star drafted by Cincinnati. “With this $4.5 million bet on Joe and the Bengals, Mack will make history again.”
Kornegay, at the SuperBook, owed the Caesars move to it needing to offset Mack’s massive wager.
“I think they’re looking to balance that out a little bit,” says Kornegay. “For us, it’s been really uneventful so far. We haven’t moved it, along with many others.”
Friday morning, Mack slapped down another $5 million on the Bengals’ moneyline, in Louisiana, to register the largest bet in Super Bowl history. He now has $9.5 million on the line to win $16.2 million.
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