The Wager: In the Stanley Cup Finals, the Knights looked golden in the casino

LAS VEGAS — As the baby of his family, with three older brothers, Jay Kornegay is used to being spoiled. “That's how it should be,” his parents, two brothers and a sister always told him.

Westgate SuperBook executive vice president applied the theme to supporters of the Vegas Golden Knights, who in their sixth season played in their second Stanley Cup Final.

Florida is the enemy on the Las Vegas Strip inside the T-Mobile Arena, venue for Games 1 (Saturday) and 2 (Monday) — and, if necessary, 5 and 7.

Are hockey fans in this city spoiled?

“Well, Vegas is one of the babies of the NHL, so its fans are to be spoiled,” said Kornegay. “Other fan bases may not like it, but that's how it is.”

This time around, however, the city's sportsbook wasn't hit with a huge amount of responsibility.

Before they played their first game, the Golden Knights went 100-to-1 shooting to win the 2017-18 Pacific Division, 250-1 to claim the Western Conference and 500-1 to win it all in the SuperBook.

The store faces a hefty loss of nearly $1 million, according to Kornegay, if Vegas is successful. Unfortunately, Washington won the Finals in five games. For bettors, two out of three is not bad.

“Cities, operators, sportsbooks and fans were so caught up during that first season,” says Kornegay, “the responsibility was secondary. Despite the high possibility of loss, most take it in stride and live with it.

“That certainly didn't prevent any of us from supporting that team that first season.”


The loss can be hard for some to explain to a boss.

Not at Caesars Palace. The Strip properties cater to tourists, most of whom make futures bets on the teams they visit Vegas to watch the Golden Knights game.

Jeff Davis, the hockey ace Circa Sports who later worked at Caesars, said the responsibility “wasn't bad at all.”

“We didn't have a lot of local games, at that point. All the street fans travel to watch their team bet the squad to win the cup. (Vegas) was a very small loser for us that year.

This season, the books come as no surprise.

In June, William Hill, South Point and Station Casinos opened the odds on the Vegas title at 10-1, the SuperBook went 16-1 and Circa, in early August, was 25-1 at the Golden Knights.

The Panthers are anywhere from +745 ($100 risk to win $745) at Circa in the preseason to 12-1 at William Hill.

“I don't want to go into details about Circa's current responsibilities, but Vegas is our worst result in the playoffs,” Davis said.

“Nonetheless, Vegas in the Cup Finals will be great for Circa as a whole.”


Not everyone in Vegas likes this team. Minnesota Paul, a regular at my home casino, epitomizes a transplant attitude that is still against the profitable Golden Knights expansion draft treatment.

Paul, who held North Stars season tickets for decades, retires to Vegas. He was ecstatic last season when he won a bet on the Knights, who missed the playoffs for the first time, to finish under their projected points total.

Minnesota Paul and the others cheered loudly for the Knights opponent as the Vegas game flashed on the large sportsbook screen.

Still, more are salivating over the prospect of a parade on the Strip, which was last experienced when UNLV won the national hoop championship in April 1990.

Arlene told postgame radio show host Ryan Wallis late Monday night, after Vegas thrashed Dallas, that she grew up an Islanders fan in New York.

When the Islanders won four straight Stanley Cups, from 1980 to '83, he backed them.

After moving to Vegas, he credited first-year coach Bruce Cassidy, a former Blackhawks defenseman.

“I bet early and had a 19-1 ticket for them,” he said. “I'm so excited. This isn't the Knight team of the past. This is Cassidy's team. Completely different.”

Others clamored for the structure and details of Cassidy, the February acquisition of dynamic winger Ivan Barbashev of St. Petersburg. Louis and the emergence of goalkeeper Sterling Adin Hill.


Of my 10 futures acquisitions, the Vegas title ducats at +325 and +375, Florida at +350 and +700 in Matthew Tkachuk for the MVP playoffs are still alive. That would benefit the other minnows, unless Tkachuk stayed hot.

In this space, Darren Banks—a 14-year Circa executive casino host and hockey pro who played 20 games for Boston—had predicted the Bruins-Edmonton final.

The former had a record 135 points this season, the latter had the most effective power play in NHL history. Vegas, however, slammed Edmonton, and Florida catapulted Boston.

I asked Banks who was going to the Finals who he was bringing:

“I love Vegas.”

At Circa, Davis gave Vegas a 52-48 power rating lead, due to her home-ice advantage, over Florida.

“Vegas has more depth, but Florida's best is better than Vegas' best,” he said. “It's going to be a long series, and I don't know who's going to win.”

Kornegay predicts drama.

“Fierce fighting,” he said. “VGK at 7, barely; Game 7 overtime winner by 30-year-old Swedish center William Karlsson.”