With apologies to Brent Musberger for stealing his patented opening line, you are looking live at the inner workings of the Westgate sportsbook. A little cramped and inconvenient now, but in 4 to 6 weeks the overhaul will be complete.
“It’s the first major renovation at the Superbook since 1986,” said Jay Kornegay, the man who runs the show and has made Westgate a reference point for immediate odds updates at ESPN’s beck and call. “It’s a tribute to Art (Manteris) and his team back in the day at how well the book was put together.”
Manteris was the man at the Hilton when the sportsbook had a bigtime name and presence. That wasn’t the case for a six-year period when morale was at an all-time low and employees were wondering whether the property was headed for implosion like the Aladdin, Hacienda and soon the Riviera.
“The hotel was cruising along despite the distractions and neutral state of the property,” Kornegay said. “We didn’t have any leadership for six years and it says a lot about our team that we could keep our success without the name or the amenities some of our competitors have.”
Things changed for the better when Westgate and owner David Siegal dedicated a lot of money to changes in the hotel/resort and, fortunately for bettors, extended much need capital into the sportsbook.
“The changes to our book are going to make us an industry leader,” Kornegay said. “We are improving the sports bar, adding a VIP area and our video screens and boards are at the highest resolution. We’re comparable to Cowboys Stadium.”
You can say the look of the book is finally catching up with the aggressive stance Westgate has taken regarding odds and lines. More and more you are seeing ESPN reference Westgate as a source to support major storylines.
“We have always been aggressive in being the first to post odds and staying on top of things,” Kornegay said. “We give the guests what they are asking for. Golf odds are up the very next day. And the betting public knows the difference between 5-1 and 7-1. Our lines are very fair.”
Kornegay took us behind the scenes and the construction area into his office, which would be a dream fancave for any sports fanatic. TVs everywhere and a first class staff led by Jeff Sherman, Ed Salmons and a woman who everyone knows as Rosemary. “We do a lot of work here and at home at the coffee table,” Kornegay said. “I can give ESPN the odds on my cell phone to make the 8 p.m. SportsCenter and 20 to 25 minutes later it’s on live.”
The seating area of the book is also changing with the larger distribution now going to the sports side. “We are going to have 150 seats in sports and 80 in racing, which is flip-flopped from what it was,” Kornegay said. “We are also excited about having a phone app that should be available in late October or November. Plus, the entire seating and betting will be smoke free.”
And there is even talk of moving the iconic Man O’ War statue inside.
“It’s been difficult for everyone with the shortage of seating during construction, but things are coming together,” Kornegay said.
The prestigious SuperContest had a record number of entries this season, nearly 1,700. Kornegay said the key number will be 1,905. When reached, the winner is guaranteed $1 million. And the projection is that will occur next year with a good shot at 2,000 entries.