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April, 18 2019

What are the odds that sports wagers will be bigger business?

Jay Kornegay // WTF VICE

Sports betting, traditionally a Las Vegas-controlled industry, is inching closer to being legal, one state at a time. Jay Kornegay, who already runs the largest sports wagering facility in the world, Westgate SuperBook, is thinking about expansion.

When he thinks What the Future, he wonders what people are willing to bet on, and how mobile will impact that. There’s a lot of blue sky in betting – as long as people get over the stigma and misconceptions. Here’s what has him feeling optimistic.

GenPop: We see in the survey that people are more comfortable with the idea of betting on sports than on events, like political contests or entertainment events. Why is that?

Jay Kornegay: I don’t think there’s as big of a desire to wager on those type of events, I agree with a lot of that. Just because I’m a bookmaker doesn’t mean I want to be taking wagers on everything that’s out there. There are things that people have information about. That would be concerning as a bookmaker. I don’t mind taking bets on the Oscars up to the point where they start collecting all the votes. I would have an issue with it if we were to take wagers all the way until Oscar night because somebody knows.

GenPop: Depending on the type of event, 20% to 30% of people say they’re interested in betting. If you’re trying to convert some of the rest, how do you go about educating them?

Kornegay: We try to educate them not only about how to wager on sports but also responsible gaming. There’s a big difference between wagering on a single game and trying to hit a 15-team parlay, although the entertainment value of betting on sports is through the roof. You can bet $5 or $10 and be entertained for two to three hours, possibly longer. You certainly are going to root a little harder when you have 20 bucks on that team.

Jay Kornegay, Executive vice president of operations, Westgate SuperBook

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GenPop: With the growth of mobile and the possibility for in-game bets on aspects of the game like “who’s going to score the next touchdown” or “who’s going to lead in the 5th inning,” it seems like there’s potential for the sports to adjust to accommodate that, or even new sports to develop with wagering baked in from the start.

Kornegay: There is kind of a blank canvas out there with the wagering, and as technology evolves and allows us to expand our world, the possibilities and the options are endless. There are certain sports that probably can use that type of boost of interest. I was talking to some officials [of a major sport.] They were trying to get their head around the gaming side. I said that it should be more interactive and they should embrace it. As fans have a little bit [invested in the event], the more interest they’ll have.

GenPop: People tend to lump legitimate betting on sports with things they see on TV. They’ll see a story about betting on which song Maroon 5 would play first at the Super Bowl, which is something you can’t do through an official sports book. But overall, are opinions changing about wagering?

Kornegay: Betting has always had this dark cloud hanging over it, going back to its roots, which were connected to organized crime. There’s still a lot of misconceptions of what we do out here in Las Vegas. Over the last few years, everything has changed. You never used to see the spreads on college football on game day. Now there are shows about sports gambling. There’s even more on the horizon as people get more comfortable with it and understand it and know that there’s nothing wrong with wagering on sports. People have no idea how regulated we are. We have an audit department that is specifically for the race and sports book that audits everything that we do. It happens every single night. It’s there to protect the consumer.

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Not everyone is willing to bet on legal wagering

Please indicate your feeling about legalizing betting on each of the following in your state.

It should be legal It should not be legal It already is legal No opinion

Professional sports
outcomes

should it be legal39% should it be legal39% should it be legal39% should it be legal39%

College or amateur sport teams from your state

should it be legal39% should it be legal39% should it be legal39% should it be legal39%

College or amateur sport teams from other states

should it be legal39% should it be legal39% should it be legal39% should it be legal39%

In-game sports events (coin toss, specific plays, etc.)

should it be legal39% should it be legal39% should it be legal39% should it be legal39%

Anything someone can make odds on

should it be legal39% should it be legal39% should it be legal39% should it be legal39%

Entertainment events (like the Oscars)

should it be legal39% should it be legal39% should it be legal39% should it be legal39%

Political races

should it be legal39% should it be legal39% should it be legal39% should it be legal39%

Celebrity deaths

should it be legal39% should it be legal39% should it be legal39% should it be legal39%

If it were legal, how interested would you be in betting on:

Professional sports
outcomes

27%

College or amateur sport teams from your state

23%

College or amateur sport teams from other states

21%

In-game sports events (coin toss, specific plays, etc.)

22% ?>

Anything someone can make odds on

15%

Entertainment events (like the Oscars)

18%

Political races

14%

Celebrity deaths

19%

If it were legal, how interested would you be in betting on:

Assume betting via mobile devices were legal where you live.

I would be comfortable betting via my mobile device

40%

I would be comfortable betting via my mobile device

72%

I would be comfortable betting via my mobile device

45%

I would be comfortable betting via my mobile device

37%

I would be comfortable betting via my mobile device

64%

(Source: Ipsos survey conducted between March 5 and March 6, 2019 among 1,006 adults age 21 and over in the U.S.)

GenPop: Will clearing up misconceptions like that help reduce some of the stigma, especially as this kind of wagering becomes legal in more states?

Kornegay: There was a time when the NFL wouldn’t even allow Las Vegas to advertise during the Super Bowl, and the next thing you know we have an NFL team and could be hosting the Super Bowl soon. So, the climate changes very quickly.

GenPop: If you were a betting man, what would you see as a timeline when sports betting like this is legal in most, if not all, states?

Kornegay: As we speak, there are 12 to 14 different states that are seriously entertaining the idea. So that means you’re looking at anywhere from 15 to 25 to 30 states having some form of sports betting within the next two or three years.

GenPop: As the leagues get on board, the states start making money and betting is seen as a non-tax revenue source, will that snowball more quickly?

Kornegay: That’s always the driving force. But I think [the states] need to do their due diligence and know exactly what that’s going to bring. [Politicians and legislators] are announcing this as a potential $250 billion business. They were talking about “handle” [the total amount wagered], not necessarily revenue. It was a little disappointing that that type of information gets out there these days. The revenue streams [for states] are probably not what they think they’re going to be.

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, Executive vice president of operations, Westgate SuperBook

Jay has more than 26 years experience in the race and sports book industry. Jay graduated from Colorado State University in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in Restaurant Business Management. Always intrigued by gaming, Jay moved to Nevada later that year to start his path in that field.



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