Los Angeles is a little over four hours away from the Las Vegas Strip, making the City of Angels the biggest outside market for sportsbooks.
That said, the Los Angeles Kings’ improbable run to the Stanley Cup final is barely making a blip in Sin City, where oddsmakers expect a small boost in action when L.A. fans come to Nevada to bet on their team once the Cup final begins May 30.
“It has a minor impact on (the Stanley Cup handle),” Jay Kornegay, sportsbook director for the LVH, told Covers. “We have such a melting pot here in Vegas despite our close vicinity to Los Angeles.
“The Kings have a hardcore loyal fan base, despite being a poor franchise for a while. But they aren’t really big bettors. They come in here and play a little bit on them. It’s nothing like the Lakers or Raiders or even the Chargers with their recent success.”
The success of California sports franchises can sometimes go hand-in-hand with the sportsbooks’ overall profit. For example, the Los Angeles Lakers draw some of the biggest handles for their regular season and playoff games. Hockey, however, is a tougher sell – even in the postseason.
“Hockey really doesn’t matter that much anymore,” Jimmy Vacarro, longtime oddsmaker for Lucky’s Sportsbooks, told Covers. “We do what we can to prop it up and get people interested. The local crowd is just going to bet who they think has the best chance of winning.”
Oddsmakers believe that if the Kings are going to draw more action for the Stanley Cup final games it will be the weekend contests – June 2, June 9 – that will see the most bets, with tourists coming from Los Angeles for a getaway.
The last time the Kings headlined a Stanley Cup final was in 1993, when Wayne Gretzky led L.A. against the Montreal Canadiens, losing the series 4-1. Vaccaro remembers a slight boost in NHL action when Gretzky was traded to the Kings in 1988.
“When Gretzky was traded, we hoped it would be the spark that would carry over for years,” he said. “But the buzz only lasted a year or two.”
This year’s version of the Kings has shocked the NHL as a No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, going 12-2 en route to an appearance in the Cup final. Los Angeles is flirting with the 1988 Edmonton Oilers’ postseason record of 16-2 (.888 winning percentage), Gretzky’s final season in Edmonton.
As for who the Kings play in the final, oddsmakers are on a wall. The NHL futures market has left some books exposed on the New York Rangers to win the Stanley Cup, compared to L.A. and the New Jersey Devils. However, the East-versus-West twist of a Los Angeles-New York final would be a great selling point for the NHL and oddsmakers.