Wednesday, April 11, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Jason McCormick attended about half of the Golden Knights’ home games this year, getting lost in the atmosphere of T-Mobile Arena as a fan.
It was a much different experience for the other half of the games, when he was at work behind the betting counter as the sports book director at Red Rock Resort.
“We would joke around that our whole financial day would come down to how the Knights would do in a home game,” McCormick said.
That means the whole financial day would usually be a loss. It’s well documented how much the Golden Knights monetarily manhandled the casinos in their inaugural season, especially by being one of nine teams in the NHL with 31 home victories.
McCormick kidded that it felt like all 18,000 attending fans each game would stop by Red Rock in between morning skate across the street at City National Arena and game time at T-Mobile Arena to bet on the Golden Knights. It made for an easy record in terms of money wagered on an NHL season, a huge positive for the sports books only to be outweighed by all the action paid out on the Golden Knights.
It’s a unique dynamic that will continue into the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they get underway at 7 tonight locally with the Golden Knights’ first game in their quarterfinal series against the Los Angeles Kings.
“There’s that balance of wanting them to continue to play well to keep the local fan base happy and drive that handle, but at some point, we’re going to have to say, ‘OK we need this to stop,’” McCormick said. “We can do it again next year. We don’t have to win the Cup in the first year.”
Every sports book in town had the Golden Knights as at least a 100-to-1 shot to win the Stanley Cup at the beginning of the season, with fans not shying away from taking a chance at the high odds. A championship would be the final blow for sports books in a season spent enduring them from the Golden Knights.
They’ll be proactive in an effort to avoid such a fate. Station Casinos, the parent company of Red Rock, was one of many sports books that opened a “yes or no” proposition wager on the Golden Knights winning the Stanley Cup during the season.
McCormick said the “no” was offered at as low as minus-400 (risking $1 to win $4) and they received considerable action to help offset some of the potential loss. Sports books will continue to hedge the further the Golden Knights make it in the playoffs by trying to entice bets against them with attractive odds on the other side in games and series prices.
“We never expected them to be this good,” McCormick said. “We expected people to be betting against them on a daily basis, and for them to be at the bottom of the league. They’re winning instead, and that’s captivated the local market and incurred us a lot of liability.”
Read below for 15 notes on the Golden Knights’ historic betting season as it progresses into the playoffs.
• The Golden Knights were easily the most profitable team to bet on in the league. If a bettor wagered $100 on Vegas every game, he or she would be up around $1,700 going into the playoffs. That’s $500 more than the second-place Nashville Predators.
• If a bettor limited the $100 per game on the Golden Knights strategy to only home games, he or she would still be up $1,100. That puts Vegas as the second-most profitable home team in the NHL, falling behind the Winnipeg Jets, which totaled $100 more at their Bell MTS Place.
• Another way Vegas busted the books was by being a consistent “over” bet for most of the season. On totals, the Golden Knights finished with 42 games going over, 38 games going under and two pushing on the number. At least they provided symmetry at T-Mobile Arena, where they went 20-20-1 on the over/unders.
• That took some low-scoring games to finish the season that fed into the cliché that defenses stiffen late in the year. Five of the Golden Knights’ last six games at home went under the total.
• No games against the first-round opponent Kings went over this season. Their first meeting landed right on the total of 6 goals with a 4-2 Golden Knights’ win. The next three games between the two teams all featured five goals.
• The Golden Knights also went a lucrative 51-31 on the puck line, which is always set at minus-1.5 or plus-1.5. That’s one win behind the Colorado Avalanche for the best puck line record in the league.
• Colorado and Vegas were the two most profitable puck line teams of the last three years, as no team had gone 52-30 since the 2015 Calgary Flames. Not since 2009 has a team, the New York Islanders, managed 53 wins on the puck line.
• Vegas’ $1,700 season profit is in less rarefied air than the puck line record. Although no team was that reliable in sports books last season, five teams have made at least that much money dating back to the 2014 season.
• The Golden Knights famously opened as the last choice in future odds to win the Stanley Cup, including at 200-to-1 at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook. They’ll open the playoffs as the sixth choice — behind the Predators, Penguins, Lightning, Bruins and Jets — at 10-1 at the Superbook.
• That far from precludes the Golden Knights from winning the Stanley Cup, though only two of the last 10 champions have overcome odds of more than 10-to-1 going into the playoffs.
• The Kings fielded both of the teams to do so. Los Angeles was 15-to-1 going into playoffs ahead of its 2014 Stanley Cup, and 22-to-1 two years earlier when it won for the first time in franchise history.
• With the Golden Knights sitting as a minus-135 (risking $1.35 to win $1) favorite and the Kings coming back at plus-115 (risking $1 to win $1.15) to win the first-round series, the odds imply a 56 percent chance that Vegas advances to the Western Conference semifinals.
• That makes for only the third closest series of the NHL’s first round. Anaheim vs. San Jose, which will produce the next opponent for the winner of Vegas vs. Los Angeles, features the Ducks at minus-125 with the Sharks coming back at plus-105. In the Eastern Conference, Washington vs. Columbus is also implied as closer with the Capitals at minus-130 to the Blue Jackets’ plus-110.
• The volatility of the NHL Playoffs has shone through in the first round recently. Favorites have only gone 23-17 in first-round series over the last five years.
• Looking for a reason to bet the Golden Knights from an analytical standpoint? CBS Sports released SportsLine’s projections, and they indicate that value remains on the Golden Knights. The simulation gives Vegas an 18 percent chance to win the Stanley Cup, more than any other Western Conference team and second overall behind only the three-peat-seeking Pittsburgh Penguins.