Westgate SuperBook expects to enter Illinois market in 2023

“I can tell you it is in our plans to be operating in the great state of Illinois,” SuperBook vice president Jay Kornegay said. “The timing of it is still in question, but it’s certainly in our plans.”

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SuperBook vice president Jay Kornegay says it takes time to sort out the logistics when the company expands to a new state.

Rob Miech

LAS VEGAS — The Westgate SuperBook has been expanding its footprint across the country, into Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, New Jersey and Tennessee, but they’ve been careful steps.

And Illinois, according to SuperBook vice president Jay Kornegay, is very much in the SuperBook’s playbook.

“I can tell you it is in our plans to be operating in the great state of Illinois,” he said. “The timing of it is still in question, but it’s certainly in our plans.”

Next up is Ohio, the 33rd U.S. jurisdiction with legalized sports betting that will link the two coasts, which Kornegay expects to be operating in January.

Four more states probably will sport SuperBooks in 2023, and The Land of Lincoln is somewhere on that calendar.

Kornegay and his team have explored the country cautiously because paying exorbitant fees and/or hefty taxes runs counter to the SuperBook’s game plan.

“I don’t know how you’re profitable that way,” Kor-negay said. “For us, being kind of a mid-major in this, it has to make sense. That’s what we’ve been doing so far, what’s worked for us.”

DIFFERENT DEALS

Expansion doesn’t just entail buying a bunch of hardware and software for new employees that the -SuperBook hopes it can trust, flipping on the lights and hanging an Open sign.

“It definitely isn’t a point-and-click deal,” Kornegay said with a laugh. “Not at all.”

He and lieutenant John Murray both mention third-party vendors, who coordinate the many moving parts, atop their lists of expansion challenges.

Ohio, for example, requires the 24-hour presence of a security guard at the door, or entryway, of a sportsbook, and that official must scan the ID cards of everyone who enters the area.

Those customers must be 21, but the system is hooked into an Ohio database to ensure patrons have no outstanding warrants, prohibitions from gambling or black-list entries, among other red flags.

Such security isn’t required in Nevada, just one aspect in which business is conducted differently elsewhere.

“It’s always new to us and can be challenging,” Kornegay said. “We’ve been pleased with what we’ve done, so far, and what we’ve seen.”

TWO STATES, TWO LINES

Thanksgiving presented another challenge when the SuperBook’s customers in New Jersey poured money on the Giants, while its Nevada patrons dumped cash on the Cowboys.

The company’s risk room in Las Vegas, at the Westgate, produces all of the SuperBook odds and lines, via the acumen of oddsmen Ed Salmons and Jeff Sherman, Kornegay and Murray.

Murray, the executive director of race and sports at the property, said they aim to keep odds uniform everywhere, but the Cowboys-Giants represented a special circumstance.

“We had really good liability on the Giants in New Jersey, and big liability on the Cowboys in Nevada,” he said, “so it didn’t make sense to deal the same price in the two different states.”

Murray said it nearly evened out in the wash as the Cowboys won 28-20 but failed to cover as 10-point favorites.

“So we had two different numbers in the two different states, just based on the way the bets were coming in.”

What eventually will land in Illinois is a SuperBook that doles out numbers on every NFL game in May and provides look-ahead lines. During Week 11, say, it offers Week 12 numbers.

“And we’ve posted the first NFL lines of the week [in Vegas] on a seasonal basis for a long time,” Kornegay said. “We have the oddsmakers and the team to do that, and it’s worked for us over the decades.

“You can only do that if you have full confidence in your team, in posting those numbers. If you don’t have that type of experience and knowledge, you can get burned a bit. But we are very comfortable in posting the first lines.”

WAYS AND MEANS

Illinois aficionados of the beautiful game will adore the SuperBook. Under Sherman’s guidance, it has long offered the deepest menu and widest variety of soccer matches in the city.

In its five other states, those menus have more than doubled, according to Sherman, due to the abundance of proposition offerings the SuperBook concocts.

“Overall, if it didn’t pencil out, we wouldn’t do it,” Murray said. “It pencils out. Yeah, the soccer menu we have in the IGT states is incredible.”

College sports are another matter. In Illinois, of course, Gov. JB Pritzker inked a revision last fall that allowed for wagering on in-state colleges, but only in-person and before a game — no in-game, mobile or player-prop allowances.

In Jersey, locals must go to New York to bet on a Garden State college team; in the Empire State, residents must travel to Jersey to wager on a New York collegiate squad.

Long Island handicapper Tom Barton fired on Rutgers, against Notre Dame, and that total in New York for the first round of the NCAA Tournament before going to Atlantic City for the opening weekend in March. (Notre Dame won 89-87 in double overtime.)

“Do you really want to push consumers to illegal channels?” Kornegay said. “That’s what they’re going to do, which studies prove. I’ve asked them, What do you do? Four out of five say, ‘Oh, I [still] bet on it. Just go back to my roots.’

“Down the road, in five to 10 years, I believe most of us will be operating under the same regulations. Those that have worked, we’ll keep. Those that needed to change will change.”

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