It’s get-serious time in the NHL, with the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the ice beginning Wednesday night. Odds are on the move in the ever-shifting futures book, but as is always the case in Las Vegas and beyond, there are some teams sportsbooks would very much prefer not to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup come June.
Covers takes a look at three such teams, the foremost of which plays right in the shadow of the Vegas Strip. Weighing in from the oddsmakers’ side of the counter are Will Bernanke, lead analyst for CG Analytics in Las Vegas; Jeff Stoneback, director of trading for MGM Resorts, also in Vegas; D.J. Fields, odds consultant for offshore site Bookmaker.eu; and Dave Mason, brand manager for offshore sportsbook BetOnline.ag.
Vegas Golden Knights – Opening odds: 200/1; Current odds: 7/1
Vegas is an expansion team, but played like anything but a newcomer through most of the season, even sitting atop the entire NHL for stretches of time. The Golden Knights won the Pacific Division with 109 points, trailing only Presidents’ Trophy winner Nashville (117) and Winnipeg (114) in the Western Conference.
“The Golden Knights took action as high as 200/1 – a few mid-hundred-dollar bets – way back last June,” Bernanke said of activity at CG books, including at The Cosmopolitan and Venetian on the Vegas Strip. “Currently, they are 7/1 to raise the cup. The Knights are the biggest liability to win it all, and it’s not even close.”
Those mid-hundred-dollar bets could lead to multiple six-figure payouts, as a $500 wager at 200/1 would net $100,000. MGM books up and down Las Vegas Boulevard are singing a similar tune.
“Vegas is our No. 1 liability, obviously, after opening the Knights at 300/1,” Stoneback said, pointing out Vegas got as low as 7/2 and is now 4/1 to win it all. “We wrote a lot of small tickets at a high price. A lot of locals jumped in and bet them. It all added up. They’re a significant loser for us. And we already did lose quite a bit on them winning their division.”
And lest you think it’s only Nevada-based books with a concern, offshore bettors are hoping the Knights are truly golden over the next two months.
“The one team keeping us awake right now is the Golden Knights,” Fields said of futures liability at Bookmaker.eu. “They opened the year at +12500 to win the Stanley Cup, but that line has fallen to +871. I don't know if it's the same people who bet the Browns to win the Super Bowl each year, but we are looking at paying out six figures if the Knights win it all.”
Added Mason: “The Golden Knights are a sizable liability for us.” BetOnline opened Vegas at 100/1 odds, got as low as 6/1 and now has the Knights a 7/1 co-third choice, along with Winnipeg.
Stoneback said that while a Vegas Stanley Cup win – or even winning the Western Conference – would certainly leave a mark, there is a bright side.
“It would be good for the city, so that would soften the blow,” he said.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Opening odds: 6/1; Current odds: 5/1
Pittsburgh is going after its third straight Stanley Cup, a fact that makes it a certainty to draw plenty of public money as long as it remains in the playoffs. But MGM books have already seen a lot of cash on the Pens to win it all.
“Pittsburgh would also be a loser for us, with quite a bit of liability,” Stoneback said. “It’s nothing near the Golden Knights, but it would be a decent-sized loser for us.”
Bernanke said the Penguins are at 6/1 and have created some liability for CG books, including from a high four-figure bet at 8/1. Bookmaker.eu also has some liability stacking up on the two-time defending champs.
“One of our sharper Canadian players laid $10,000 on the Penguins to win $85,000 earlier this season,” Fields said. “That wager, coupled with a rabid fan base that has no problem throwing money behind their team, leaves us with a bit of exposure on the Pens.”
At BetOnline.ag, the Pens opened 9/1, tightened to 6/1 and are now 8/1 to pull off the three-peat.
“It’s about half the size of the exposure on the Golden Knights,” Mason said.
Anaheim Ducks – Opening odds: 25/1; Current odds: 12/1
Anaheim reached the Western Conference finals two of the last three seasons, falling in six games to Nashville last year and seven games to Chicago in the 2014-15 season. The Ducks amassed 101 points this season, second to the Golden Knights in the Pacific Division.
CG books saw liability stack up on some relatively large bets on high early prices.
“We a couple mid-four-figure bets on the Ducks to win it all at 25/1 and 22/1,” Bernanke said.
Mason said at BetOnline.ag, the Ducks’ liability was similar to that of the Penguins, at about half that of the Golden Knights.
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.