Westgate’s Murray Loves a good fight

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John Murray, one of the nation’s top up-and-coming bookmakers, took his first trip to Las Vegas when he turned 21.

He could pick games, but he didn’t know the correct way to place a wager at a real casino.

“I remember coming up to the betting window and just saying the name of the team,” said Murray, the director of race and sports operations at Westgate’s SuperBook and a contestant in Gaming Today’s Bookies Battle. “The kid who was writing the ticket was like ‘I need the betting number.’ I had no idea what he was talking about.”

Murray, 35, has come a long way from that clueless beginning, learning the ins and outs of the business from SuperBook vice-president Jay Kornegay and an experienced bookmaking crew that includes Ed Salmons and Jeff Sherman.

“I was lucky I got in with the guys here,” Murray said.

After graduating from West Virginia with a degree in English in 2006, Murray said he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. He’d only taken English because writing came naturally to him.

“I did it because it was the easy way out,” he said.

Another visit to Vegas in October 2006 convinced him of exactly what he should do.

Murray, who grew up in McLean Va., and some friends had previously made a prop bet that Ryan Howard would win the home-run title, which Howard did by hitting 58, four more than David Ortiz.

“We made a pact with each other that if he won, we’d do another Vegas trip,” Murray said. “It paid like 40-1. We came out here for almost a week. We had so much fun. The World Series was going on. We were betting on football. It was then that I decided ‘I’m going to move to Vegas.’”

Less than three months later, January 2007, Murray was back and here to stay. His career has been on the fast track ever since getting hired as a ticket writer at the SuperBook that May. He’s been with Westgate most of the time, but he did leave for 2½ years to be a manager at Cantor Gaming (now CG Technology) before returning in 2016.

Although he has input in numerous areas, Murray’s primary expertise for the SuperBook is boxing and UFC.

“I like fighting a lot,” he said. “None of the other guys really follow it much.”

Murray typically waits for other books around the world to set odds on non-major fights, but he likes to be “first to the market” – at least in Las Vegas – for the high-profile matches.

He made the line on a potential third fight between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin as he was leaving the arena following their second meeting in September. He also interrupted a dinner with his mother while on vacation back East to call in a line shortly after official word came down last summer that Conor McGregor was going to face Khabib Nurmagomedov in their UFC match.

Since his promotion to director in May, Murray has played a larger role in helping the SuperBook fulfill its growing media demands.

“That’s become a really big part of the job,” he said. “There’s so much interest in this stuff.”

Clearly, Murray is set up nicely – mid 30’s, learned from some of the best in the business and an industry that’s expanding rapidly nationwide with a limited number of experienced bookmakers to go around. The problem is anywhere he might go simply won’t measure up to the SuperBook, the indisputable worldwide king with an unrivaled video presentation.

“I love Las Vegas, I want to work for Jay, I don’t want to move,” Murray said. “If the right offer presented itself down the line, I can’t say that I wouldn’t listen. I would love to run a book in southern California or maybe even back on the East Coast somewhere. For the time being, I’m committed to Las Vegas.”

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