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The Tampa Bay Rays are a great story for baseball. But they are a potential nightmare for bookmakers.
The Rays’ rags-to-riches tale holds great jeopardy for bookmakers.
Jay Kornegay and his staff at the Las Vegas Hilton sportsbook thought nothing of putting the Rays’ World Series odds up at 200-1 before the season.
And why not?
After all, the Rays had never won more than 70 games during their previous 10-year history. They averaged a puny 64.5 victories prior to this season.
But now through 150 games, the Rays are 90-70 and leading the American League Eastern Division.
“Usually we need the favorite in the futures,” said Kornegay, the race and sportsbook director at the Hilton.
That’s the case again this season. The New York Yankees missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 years is bad for bookmakers because they opened the Yankees with very low odds.
Open a team at 200-1 and liability can add up real fast. Every 10 years or so bookmakers get blindsided by a long shot underdog. Nevada sportsbooks lost millions in 1999 when the St. Louis Rams came out of nowhere to win the Super Bowl despite losing their starting quarterback, Trent Green, during preseason.
Before that, in 1991, Nevada bookmakers lost in the $15-20 million range when the Minnesota Twins beat the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. Both were 100-1 shots.
No team draws more money to win the World Series than the Chicago Cubs. So not only are bookmakers rooting against the Rays, but they also are trying to dodge a bullet on the Cubs.
The house has history on their side. The Cubs last won a World Series a century ago. They haven’t even been in a World Series since 1945.
But that doesn’t mean bookmakers aren’t going to do some heavy sweating. The Cubs have a long gory history of choking, but they also have the best record in the National League.
They clearly are the best team in the National League. In a short series, though, the best team doesn’t always win.
Like every sportsbook, the Hilton opened the Cubs with fairly low odds at 12-1. That didn’t keep the large Cubs fan base from backing their team like they do every season. It’s become a rite of passage every spring in Las Vegas – betting the Cubs on the future book.
“The number of tickets and volume on the Cubs has created liability,” Kornegay said.
Anybody for a Rays-Cubs World Series? Now that would be bizarre.