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Long shot St. Louis Blues cost sportsbooks by winning Stanley Cup

Updated June 12, 2019 - 10:13 pm

A party broke out on the streets of St. Louis after the Blues won their first Stanley Cup with a 4-1 road win over the Boston Bruins in Game 7 on Wednesday night.

But there wasn’t much celebrating in the back rooms of most Las Vegas sportsbooks.

A wave of action on the Blues to win the Stanley Cup when they were languishing in last place through the middle of the season led to massive exposure on St. Louis.

The Golden Nugget, for example, took several bets in mid-January on the Blues at as much as 300-1.

“Bad,” Golden Nugget sportsbook director Tony Miller said of the impact the Blues winning the championship had on the book’s bottom line. “Real bad. Disaster.

“Probably the worst loss we’ve had since Leicester City.”

Miller was referencing the English Premier League team that overcame astronomical odds to win the title in 2016.

He said sportsbooks are in a bad position whenever teams defy expectations to win a championship.

“I think most places needed the Bruins,” Miller said. “If you’re ever at 300-1 on a team, no matter what sport, (the bettors) take the long shots. This was no different. You’ve got a last-place team that came from nowhere and is going to win the thing. It’s like if the (Miami) Marlins win or someone like that. All these long shots in every sport, if they come back and win, we’re going to lose. That’s the boat we’re in.”

The Blues were in last place in the NHL on Jan. 3, 11 points behind Anaheim for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Two days later, they recalled rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington and turned around their season.

Miller said the majority of the 300-1 tickets at the Golden Nugget came in mid-January. An 11-game winning streak from Jan. 23 through Feb. 19 raised eyebrows around the league and steadily knocked the number down on the betting board, but the damage was done.

The Golden Nugget’s exposure mostly came from an accumulation of $20 to $50 bets. A $400 bet on St. Louis at 250-1 — a $100,000 payout — that was placed in January at Paris Las Vegas also led to a difficult day at Caesars Entertainment Corp. sportsbooks.

The Westgate’s number got as high as 300-1, but it only took a $20 bet at that number. The property might have been fortunate in this situation to be more of a local sportsbook.

“We don’t have any of the big hitters to talk about the way some of these other books do,” Westgate sportsbook executive director John Murray said. “We don’t really have a lot of St. Louis fans staying with us. We didn’t really deal with that at all. We were just a small loser on the Blues.”

It was different last year when the Westgate faced a great deal of exposure from local bettors on the Golden Knights, who fell short in the Stanley Cup Final.

The St. Louis victory wasn’t ideal for the Westgate but wasn’t a disaster, either.

“We won a good amount on the Conn Smythe Award (to the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs), and we actually ended up turning a decent profit,” Murray said. “Not nearly as much as we would’ve if Boston had won, but it was a perfectly good profit overall when you factor in all the different markets.

“We could have used a sixth goal, too,” added Murray, whose book closed at 5 on the total. “People love to bet the under in these Game 7s. They pulled (Boston goaltender) Tuukka Rask with like four minutes left. I thought we had a shot there, but the Binnington kid was like a wall.”

While the books were disappointed with the results, it will be business as usual Thursday.

“Hey, good for the bettors,” Miller said. “Hopefully it keeps them coming back and playing more. Anytime you see a long shot, though, it’s going to hurt us.”

There aren’t many opportunities for bettors shopping early for a similarly priced team next season.

The Westgate opened its odds to win the 2020 Stanley Cup before the Blues even raised the Cup, with only Ottawa (300-1) paying off more than 80-1.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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