Westgate's Kornegay always looks forward to Super Bowl props
January 24, 2017 3:01 AM
by Dave Dye
Super Bowl blowouts had become an annoying trend during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Reality never came close to matching the hype as six out of 11 were decided by three touchdowns or more.
The games were putting even bettors to sleep by halftime.
So when the pointspread for Super Bowl XXIX came out in January 1995, and the San Francisco 49ers were favored by 19 points or more over the San Diego Chargers, Jay Kornegay knew he and his staff had to do something.
Kornegay, now the vice president of race and sports at the Westgate SuperBook, had been at the Imperial Palace for about six years at the time.
“When we saw that spread, our thought was, ‘Let’s try to make some propositions that won’t be decided until later in the game, that keeps everybody interested,’” Kornegay said.
Super Bowl props had been around for a few years – some books took a big hit when 335-pound defensive tackle William “The Refrigerator” Perry scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run for the Chicago Bears in 1986 – but there were mostly limited options.
Kornegay decided it was time to expand.
“We took that menu of 30 to 40 different propositions and made it 80,” Kornegay said. “That’s pretty much when we hit the jackpot. The media loved it. Our customers loved it and, most importantly, they bet them.”
Super Bowl Sunday hasn’t been the same since, at least not around Las Vegas.
This Thursday at 7 p.m., the SuperBook is scheduled to release more than 400 propositions for a Super Bowl game that will be played 10 days later.
A 16-page booklet, printed on the front and back, will list every prop along with other betting information. All of the props also will be available on Westgate’s mobile app, which Kornegay highly recommends using to avoid the long lines.
He estimates more than 50 percent of the total Super Bowl handle will come from prop bets.
“I never thought it would get to this level,” Kornegay said.
Once the matchup finally became official following Sunday’s NFC and AFC championship games, Kornegay planned to focus almost nonstop on this extensive project.
His team started the process a couple weeks ago, but any final details naturally had to wait until they knew for certain which teams would be playing.
“It is very, very time-consuming because you have to be 100 percent accurate with the spelling, with the numbers, with the betting numbers, all the disclaimers,” Kornegay said. “We don’t want any kind of controversy with how a certain prop is graded. There can’t be one ‘T’ that’s not crossed. It’s all got to be double-, triple-checked, quadruple-checked.”
The Westgate certainly isn’t alone in making these propositions. Every sportsbook in town has them in some form, but Kornegay and his group, including Ed Salmons and Jeff Sherman, are largely responsible for the massive growth, in part because they put their much-anticipated long list up first. It is unquestionably the biggest and best that’s offered each year.
Back in the late 1990s, another sportsbook actually took the Imperial Palace’s prop sheets and replaced the logo with their own casino’s logo.
One problem: The “e” in Palace could still be seen.
Asked about the incident, Kornegay said, “There is a lot of truth to that, yes. I will not mention the place. One of our customers brought up the sheet and said, ‘They didn’t even white-out your name entirely.’ There was no doubt they were our sheets.
“In one way, it’s somewhat flattering that they would trust us to make numbers like that. But it is also frustrating because we spent weeks putting all this stuff together.”
Many of the props these days have become standardized and appear annually in a regular rotation for all casinos.
Nevertheless, Kornegay and company always put up many additional creative ones that draw the curiosity of bettors and the media, often in the form of crossover props that tie a statistic from the Super Bowl to another sporting event.
For Kornegay, who moved from the IP to the SuperBook in 2004, one of the highlights is when some seemingly meaningless play draws a boisterous reaction during the game. He knows it’s because of one of those crazy props that have become such a phenomenon.
“It’s a huge part of the Super Bowl weekend,” Kornegay said. “We take a lot of pride in it. It’s been a great ride.”