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January 17, 2018

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If the Golden Knights win the Stanley Cup (not that crazy, right?), Vegas books will suffer big loss

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L.E. Baskow

Vegas Golden Knights fans sing and celebrate their win over the Chicago Blackhawks as the game nears the end at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017.

If the Golden Knights hoist the Stanley Cup in June, it could result in the biggest loss in NHL history for some Las Vegas sportsbooks.

“We have a running joke with all the people at the book saying ‘We’ll be cheering them all the way to the (Stanley Cup) parade, with our resumes in hand,’” said Jay Kornegay, the vice president of race and sports operations at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kornegay said futures bets on the Golden Knights to win it all are the biggest liability ever in a sport that is bet far fewer than the other major sports. The Westgate opened the Golden Knights as 100-to-1 longshots to win the Stanley Cup, and the number got as high as 500-to-1 during the preseason.

The odds have plummeted following their hot start and the Golden Knights are now 8-to-1, behind only the Tampa Bay Lightning and even with the defending Western Conference champion Nashville Predators.

The NHL has always been a distant fourth behind the NFL, MLB and NBA when it comes to betting on professional sports in Las Vegas. As a whole that hasn’t changed this year, but the Golden Knights are the exception.

“We haven’t seen an uptick in overall hockey, but (Golden Knights) games have had a tremendous handle for us,” Westgate SuperBook manager Jeff Sherman said. “Their games are 5-6 times (the amount bet) of any other NHL game on a given night.”

Sherman said Golden Knights home games are bet at a comparable volume to some NFL games, and have attracted more wagers than even the Christmas Day NBA Finals rematch between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors.

Bettors are rushing to the counters to bet on the Golden Knights, and so far they’re winning.

The Golden Knights have been the most profitable team in the entire NHL this season at plus-16.1 units. They’re 23-9-2 record is second to only the Lightning, but the Golden Knights have won bettors more money because they’ve been underdogs in 20 of their 34 games.

“They’ve been getting a lot of support in their home games, and the public is doing well,” Kornegay said. “At first we were getting hurt by them but now the market has adjusted to how well they’re playing.”

The Golden Knights have cashed for their backers in 15 of the 18 home games and are 5-0 as home underdogs. The books have seen an increase in bets on Golden Knights even when they’re on the road, but nothing like the volume bet on home games.

“I think it’s more to do with their home performance,” Kornegay said. “It may have something to do with people excited about the game in town but it’s more people just going with how their results have went at home.”

The oddsmakers caught up quickly. Just in the last two weeks the Golden Knights have been favored over the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and last year’s Presidents Trophy-winning Washington Capitals.

“It’s really been a drastic change in the betting market because of the longevity of their success,” Kornegay said. “A lot of people keep waiting for them to falter but most people think they are a good team at this point.”

Due to the shift, many professional gamblers or “sharps” are now betting against Vegas.

“We do have a lot of liability and we have no problem,” Sherman said. “We book it like any other game. We do see a spike in ticket count and support for the Knights but there’s always the sharps that are betting against them.”

Bettors are consistently winning on total bets involving the Golden Knights as well. Like all sports, more money is generally wagered on the "over," and 20 of the Golden Knights' 34 games have gone over the total, which is the second highest percentage in the NHL.

Sherman said the attention the Golden Knights are receiving at the sportsbook is unlike anything he’s seen in the NHL. The book has nearly every Golden Knights game on the biggest screen, and will have the audio for the game on in at least part of the book most of the time -- something that is normally reserved for the NFL and NBA.

“I have never seen hockey get as much big screen time as we’ve seen this year,” he said.

And while the attention and excitement surrounding Las Vegas’ first professional team hasn’t spilled over to the rest of the NHL slate, it’s only the beginning.

“It hasn’t really transferred to the rest of the league yet, but in the long run we can see that happening,” Sherman said. “As our audience is educated about the other teams in the league, especially division rivals, it could lead to more wagering.”

Jesse Granger can be reached at 702-259-8814 or [email protected]. Follow Jesse on Twitter at twitter.com/JesseGranger_.

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