Las Vegas sports books push back on NFL flak over prop wagers

Updated January 21, 2019 - 9:22 pm

Westgate sports book vice president Jay Kornegay said Monday he’s never had a game-fixing issue involving a proposition bet and that safeguards such as lower betting limits are in place.

However, the NFL is worried that the fix could be in and would like to see prop bets banned.

The league remains wary as the count down begins for Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta on Feb. 3. Las Vegas sports books will post props this week to kick off one of its largest betting stretches of the year.

Prop bets generate 60 percent of the Super Bowl wagering handle at the Westgate sports book. Kornegay said he hopes that low limits alone help clear up misconceptions that were created, in part, when former major league pitcher Al Leiter said last year that a pitcher could be influenced to throw a ball instead of a strike to start a game if someone offered him $500,000 to do so.

“I’ve never seen anyone take a half million dollars on a prop. The reality is that books’ limits on props are very low,” Kornegay told the Review-Journal. “We only accept $2,000 on our props. It’s very unlikely a bookmaker would take a large wager on a proposition and we certainly wouldn’t take it from an unknown player. If there was suspicious activity on a prop, we would investigate it.”

The issue arose in testimony before a U.S. House of Representatives committee on Sept. 27 as NFL executive vice president Jocelyn Moore asked Congress to let pro sports leagues and gambling regulators ban prop bets that involve the performance of individual athletes.

“These types of bets are significantly more susceptible to match-fixing efforts,” she testified. “… we encourage Congress to allow professional and amateur sports organizations to identify which types of bets simply pose too significant a risk to the integrity of sports and to work with regulators not to authorize them.”

An NFL spokesman said last week there has been no change in the league’s position since the September testimony.

William Hill sports book CEO Joe Asher told the Associated Press the NFL’s request is a solution in search of a problem.

“We’ve been doing this for many years, and this issue is way overblown,” he said. “We’ve never seen evidence of a player prop being manipulated.”

Kornegay said another misconception is the difference in props allowed by regulated books such as those in Nevada and non-regulated offshore books that take bets on such things as the color of liquid thrown on the winning coach or total times President Donald Trump tweets during the game.

“Those are not booked in Nevada because there’s no official result,” Kornegay said. “And in the case of what color Gatorade or what color is Lady Gaga’s hair, somebody knows that. We’re not going to post those if someone has knowledge of what they’re going to be.

“I certainly hope they look into it a lot more. They’ve got to be educated about the difference between a regulated and a non-regulated environment.”

Offshore sports book BetDSI spokesman Scott Cooley told the R-J his book never had an issue with fixing props, either. Their limits on off-field Super Bowl LIII props range from $50-$250, while limits on their player and game props range from $500-$1,000.

“At the end of the day, books should be smart enough to protect themselves and set low limits on props,” Cooley said Monday. “We really try to limit our exposure. Prop bets are mostly there for fun and to keep people engaged during the game.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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