Turns out, it was a great week to speak with Jay Kornegay.
I reached out to Kornegay, vice president of race and sports at the Westgate SuperBook, last Friday to ask if he’d spend some time with me on the phone this week. He agreed, of course, because that’s the kind of guy he is. Then on Monday, the Westgate announced its first expansion into a state where sports betting has been newly legalized, formalizing an agreement with The Lodge Casino in Black Hawk, Colorado, to bring the SuperBook brand to Kornegay’s home state.
A stalwart of Nevada’s sports betting community since the late 1980s, Kornegay took oversight of the Las Vegas SuperBook in 2004. His shop is known for dealing some of the fairest odds in the market, running the famous and prestigious SuperContest and plain ole good bookmaking.
During our call on Wednesday, Jay discussed his company’s foray into Colorado, what changes he sees ahead for the industry in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, some of his predictions for the upcoming NFL season and what else he’s been up to while staying at home during the crisis.
BetIndiana News: Why is Colorado your first state to expand into?
Kornegay: It just turned out that way. We’re not looking to be in every jurisdiction. We’re just looking in states that really make sense to us, and Colorado was one of them. They’ve got very fair tax rates, they’re regulation friendly, and once we started talking to The Lodge, they were really easy to deal with and understanding and wanted a partnership with us, and we wanted a partnership with them. There was a lot of boxes that were checked during the process, and this ended up being the first one.
BetIndiana News: You’re a Broncos fan, and you’re going to be weighted on the Broncos every week. Is that a weird position to be in?
Kornegay: Oh, I’m used to that by now. I’m a season-ticket holder for the (Las Vegas Golden) Knights. It’s not the most comfortable feeling in the world. But I’ve been through many Broncos Super Bowls as a director of a Las Vegas sportsbook. I’m always able to separate the two between business and being a fan, as I do with the Knights. Whenever I’m dealing with the book, it’s in the best interests of the book. But when the game starts, I can still root for my home team or my favorite team. I just hope the Knights don’t win by two goals (to cover the goal line).
(note: For more from Kornegay on the SuperBook’s expansion into Colorado, check out this thread on Twitter).
BetIndiana News: What sport have you most missed booking?
Kornegay: College basketball. Now that answer would change pending the time of year, but since this happened in March, we certainly missed out on the tournament.
BetIndiana News: Of course. That was kind of a layup. … Nevada Gaming this week approved wagering on three more eSports events. Will the SuperBook offer these sorts of markets when you reopen?
Kornegay: We plan on offering eSports as they became approved, and we’ll have to see the response, and we’ll certainly give it time. But we do plan on offering eSports.
BetIndiana News: If NFL games are played at their usual stadiums but with no fans, what adjustment do you make to home-field advantage in terms of the point spread?
Kornegay: It’s going to be a slight adjustment, which means, you could see a point, point-and-a-half, maybe two points at the most. But as we move along and we observe the results and the level of impact of having no fans, that number could change.
BetIndiana News: Who wins more games this season, the Bucs or the Patriots?
BetIndiana News: The Las Vegas Raiders, OVER/UNDER seven-and-a-half wins. A book across town (Circa) has the UNDER juiced to -135. What’s your play?
Kornegay: I think they can win eight games, so I would take the plus-money there. I like what they’re doing. I think they’ve got a lot more jump in their step heading into this season. It’s really unfortunate that they’re not going to have that home-field advantage that they were expecting if they (the NFL) do move forward with no fans. But I think (Derek) Carr’s gonna have a better year than a lot of people think. He’s been called out, and I think he’s gonna step up and have a decent season.
BetIndiana News : How about the Broncos? Same number, seven-and-a-half, but the OVER is juiced to -115.
Kornegay: I like what the Broncos have done this offseason, and I liked what I saw at the end of the year with (QB Drew) Lock, even though it was a small sample. I think they’re in the same boat as the Raiders. I can see them being a .500 team.
BetIndiana News : World Series prediction?
Kornegay: I would probably be very chalky and go with the Dodgers, and I’ll go with — just because the Yankees cannot stay healthy — I’m going to go with a West Coast bias and go Dodgers and A’s.
BetIndiana News: If the NBA playoffs are played at a neutral site, who do you have winning it?
Kornegay: As a bookmaker, oddsmaker you always continue where you left off, but this can really affect teams in different ways. Some are going to be very motivated and others are not going to be motivated at all and prefer to maybe not even play it out or just be disinterested at this time as we have bigger issues. So, it’s going to be very difficult to predict. But I’ll go with the Bucks over the Lakers.
BetIndiana News: Will there be legal betting in Nevada on the 2024 presidential election?
Kornegay: (Laughs) 2024? I’m going to say no. Even though I would like to see it on the board, I just don’t know if we would get enough votes to overturn it. No pun intended.
BetIndiana News: Will there be legal betting on the 2024 presidential election in any state?
Kornegay: I could see that happening. There’s certainly some big hurdles to overcome, but when you are talking four years from now, a lot can happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a couple of states accepting wagers on it.
BetIndiana News : What’s the best thing you’ve watched on (television) during quarantine?
Kornegay: Well, it certainly wasn’t the movie “Contagion”.
BetIndiana News: I’ve avoided that one.
Kornegay: I had to watch it. That movie was made nine years ago, and they actually talk about social distancing, and I was like, “Man, I’ve never heard of that term before two months ago.” But it was in that movie, and my wife and I look at each other and go, “No way!’. But the one series that we’ve really gotten into, and we’re a little late on this, is “Ozark” on Netflix.
BetIndiana News: Great show. … Do you listen to podcasts, and if so, what’s your favorite one?
Kornegay: I don’t really listen to too many. I do if someone sends me something specific. I’m not a regular listener, but I can be biased and I do think John Murray (who is director at the SuperBook) and Kelly Stewart‘s podcast is pretty funny. I’ve listened to a couple of those. I’m more in tune of laughing at this point, and they make me laugh.
BetIndiana News: Have you read any good books since you’ve been staying at home?
Kornegay: Not during this time. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and working on things that are gonna take place outside Nevada. So I get to read, you know, internal controls, the regulations, information on other jurisdictions. But haven’t had a chance to sit down and read a book.
BetIndiana News: What’s the best thing you’ve made for dinner over the past five weeks?
Kornegay: My wife is the one that does the majority of the cooking, and she’s listening in the background, so I just have to be careful what I say. She’s laughing right now. We tested the waters and we went to Costco one time since this thing happened, and that was a week ago. It actually went very well, and we were able to pick up a few steaks and we grilled those steaks in the backyard and they just came out fantastic. That was a really good steak, and it’s been a little while since we’ve had one. My wife did a great job of cooking it to medium rare for me.
BetIndiana News: You said (earlier in our call) that you don’t like to drink at home too much, but maybe by the fire you’ve had a few. What’s been your go-to quarantine beverage?
Kornegay: I’m always partial to vodka and soda. Tito’s, soda and lime.
BetIndiana News: What’s the best habit you’ve picked up during all this?
Kornegay: Not shaving. It’s been nice not to shave. But the other one is biking a lot. We’ve been biking almost every day, weather permitting. That’s been a nice addition to our daily routine.
BetIndiana News: What’s the worst habit you’ve picked up?
Kornegay: Probably eating way too many desserts. My daughter likes to bake some goodies here and there. So whether they’re brownies or chocolate chip cookies with a little bit of ice cream. That’s probably not a good habit. I’ve been okay, but I’ve eaten a couple more desserts than I normally would.
BetIndiana News: Your predicted date for the first game back for one of the four major leagues.
Kornegay: I am going to pass. I am terrible on that because, I don’t know, it seems like everybody’s terrible on that. … I mean, it’s all speculation and they’re all guesses, and it seems like they’re changing every few days. All I can say is, I hope it’s sooner than later.
BetIndiana News: Do you see one major change that the sports betting industry will undergo as a result of this?
Kornegay: I could see the importance of mobile technology more than ever. I think there’s going to be emphasis on improving that service and possibly regulations that are surrounding it to allow remote signups in every jurisdiction.
(note: Earlier in our call, I asked, “Do you see any changes that Nevada Gaming will make because of this? Specifically, allowing mobile deposits?”. His response: “I can’t speak for what they might do, but it would make sense that the entire business world may conduct business in a different way.”)
BetIndiana News: Beyond that, what’s one positive thing we can take from this? You can answer that from an industry perspective, from a personal perspective, you can answer it as humans, as a country. Is there a lesson to be taken from this or is there one positive thing that we can take from all this craziness?
Kornegay: We’ve discussed it with a circle of friends, and we jokingly have said, “Wow, I think everyone’s personal hygiene is going to be better.” I do see others — the human kindness that we have seen over this time. There’s a lot of positive there.
Also read: Quarantine Q&A with Captain Jack Andrews