The Vegas Golden Knights’ winning ways have pretty much everyone in the city pulling for them, but not the casinos. According to a story from ESPN’s Doug Kezirian, sports books have been “getting [their] butts kicked” on bets related to the NHL expansion franchise’s unprecedented start.
One of the more unique parts of the Golden Knights’ rise is that, by playing in Las Vegas, local fans can legally bet on their games. Hockey isn’t typically a popular sport for gambling, but fans have gravitated toward their local team ... and won big as a result.
“We’ve been getting our butts kicked,” South Point oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro said. “We should rename it ‘free date night.’ A guy invites a girl out to dinner and stops at the sports book on the way to the game. What she doesn’t realize is we are paying for everything.”
The Golden Knights have a 19-2-2 record at home, the best in the NHL. There have been jokes that the success is related to the “Vegas Flu,” i.e. opponents having a little too much fun out on the town when visiting the city, but it goes without saying that the team is crushing it at T-Mobile Arena.
“Hockey is usually a very poorly bet sport,” said Nick Bogdanovich, the William Hill director of trading. “But all of a sudden we have big decisions and we keep losing them. Players just keep rolling over their winnings.”
A player who bet $100 on each Golden Knights home game this season already would’ve netted $1,395, according to ESPN. The losses in hockey “typically amount to little more than a rounding error for a casino’s bottom line,” but the unique circumstances around the expansion franchise — the only major sports team in the only major U.S. city that allows legal gambling — have put the sports books in a bind.
When the Golden Knights win, the house has been losing.
Part of why sports books didn’t anticipate this kind of action on the team is the challenging nature of gambling on hockey. Players regularly sit out with unspecified injuries, unlike in the NFL where teams are far more transparent. And it’s not like basketball, where star players can have a disproportionate effect on the results.
Hockey is the kind of game where an expansion franchise like the Golden Knights can lead the Western Conference. The NHL has doubled down on parity at every stop, which makes it difficult to make smart bets. The sport’s inherent randomness makes it less conducive to gambling. Nobody could’ve expected Vegas to be this good out of the gate with a roster of castoffs from other teams.
But the sports books keep taking tons of bets, waiting for the day when reality hits the Golden Knights and they stop winning at home over 80 percent of the time. And if that doesn’t come and Vegas goes on to win the Stanley Cup, the losses for sports books could reach seven figures.
“I had to double-check my computer screen to make sure I didn’t make a mistake when looking it up,” Westgate Las Vegas Superbook oddsmaker and manager John Murray said. “It could be really bad.”
Bad for the sports books, yes. Amazing for everyone else, though.