Las Vegas Sportsbooks Avoid Massive Payout on Golden Knights Championship
The Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history on Thursday night. Not only were fans in the nation’s capital finally able to celebrate a championship after coming up short for years, but sportsbook operators in Las Vegas were also able to breathe easy.
According to ESPN, books around Vegas that had been wagered on the Vegas Golden Knights to win it all. Books were on the verge of having to pay out millions of dollars worth of bets to those that bet on the Knights, whose preseason odds to win the Stanley Cup were as high as 500-1.
William Hill director of trading Nick Bogdanovich told ESPN,
This was our biggest liability on an event that had a realistic chance of winning since William Hill U.S. was formed in 2012. The estimates I heard around town of $5 million and $6 million sounded about right.
Those around Las Vegas were likening the Knights’ chances to other underdogs that surpassed expectations, such as Leicester City’s Cinderella run to the 2015 English Premier League title or the Minnesota Twins’ worst-to-first 1991 campaign.
While the books still faced the prospects of healthy payouts, they had also taken steps to mitigate their risk as the season progressed. Westgate SuperBook oddsmaker John Murray told ESPN,
We cut our liability in half on the field bet. We gave a good price on the field in January because we saw how big the futures number was. If we did nothing, we’d have been looking at a seven-figure liability.
The Golden Knights were unique in that the sportsbooks thought they actually had a realistic chance of completing the dream season. The Knights became the first expansion team to reach the Stanley Cup Finals in its first year of existence. Unlike another high-liability bet (Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather), bookmakers believed the hockey team was a legitimate contender.
Murray went on to say,
If McGregor had won, that would have been beyond catastrophic. Even this past winter, Vegas winning the Cup was more realistic than that. We were willing to gamble against McGregor, but we weren’t willing to do that against the Golden Knights.
The NHL making its first foray into Nevada has done wonders for betting interest in the sport. The Nevada Gaming Control Board’s monthly reports say that betting handle on the “other” category, under which hockey is included, was up 36 percent during the regular season. Huge local interest in the Golden Knights has also led to much more hockey viewing at the books themselves.
While the oddsmakers were surely fine with what played out, some did admit to still rooting for the Golden Knights to win it in spite of the financial harm it would have brought to their respective businesses. Wynn executive John Avello said, “I was rooting for the town. We’ve taken hits before. If I was going to pay off on something, I would have been glad to pay off on the Knights. They’ve been the talk of the town.”
Murray said that some of his co-workers have season tickets to the games, as well.
It’s never too early to bet on next season. WestGate has already listed the Tampa Bay Lightning as the favorites to hoist the Stanley Cup around this time next summer at 8-1. The Knights are one of 5 teams listed at 10-1, while the Capitals are at 12-1 to defend their championship.
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