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David Schoen

World Cup grows in popularity among bettors

11 June 2014

Jay Kornegay realized how much the World Cup has grown in the U.S. during a family vacation in 2010.

Kornegay, the LVH sports book director, was with his son at Disneyland and wanted to watch the Americans play Ghana in the round of 16. They arrived at a sports bar 20 minutes before kickoff figuring that was enough time to grab a table and settle in.

“You could barely find a wall to lean against,” Kornegay said. “The whole place was into it. We had to eat standing up.”

The World Cup also proved surprisingly popular in Las Vegas sports books four years ago, and the monthlong tournament, which gets underway Thursday in Brazil, is expected to generate even more interest this time around.

Brazil, the five-time champion, is the 5-to-2 favorite at the LVH and meets Croatia in the opening match at 1 p.m. local time. Argentina (4-1) is the second choice followed by Germany (5-1) and defending champion Spain (13-2).

“We expect this World Cup to be probably the biggest one we’ve seen,” Kornegay said. “Now, what does that mean? It’s not Super Bowl-like or March Madness-like. ... But some of these decisions will resemble an NFL decision.”

The World Cup comes during an otherwise quiet time for the books and will benefit from a dearth of competition, aside from baseball. The Los Angeles Kings are one victory away from the Stanley Cup, and the NBA Finals will end June 20 at the latest. NFL training camps, meanwhile, don’t open until well after the World Cup final July 13.

The start times also are conducive to bettors. Unlike four years ago in South Africa when the time difference meant early-morning kickoffs, the majority of matches in Brazil will start at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m. local time and rarely cross paths with the other major sports. Every World Cup match will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC.

“It’s a pretty big lull between June 20 and the first week of August, and this is definitely going to help our numbers and help the quarter as we get ready to go into football toward the end of the summer,” MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said. “I think we’re going to do really well to it. I’m hoping our business we did in the last tournament will be two (times) that.”

The LVH has released 14 pages of prop bets for the tournament, and one of the most popular plays so far has been “Will Brazil or Argentina win the 2014 World Cup?” with “Yes” at plus-110. Station Casinos also will have an extensive menu of props, and books such as William Hill will offer in-match wagering.

“We haven’t had live wagering during a World Cup in America before, so I’m looking forward to that,” said Micah Roberts, an analyst for “The Linemakers” on and a former book director. “It’s a nice new amenity for this year’s games.”

The U.S. and Mexico are both 100-1 at the LVH to win the tournament, and the Americans were drawn into a difficult group that includes Germany and Portugal. The U.S. (pick’em, minus-105) opens against Ghana at 3 p.m. Monday.

“They’re our biggest loser obviously in the future book that we have, but I would like to see them get out of the pool round,” Rood said. “The more matches they’re involved in, obviously, the better it’s going to be for us.”

The LVH will show a handful of matches involving the U.S. and Mexico in the Shimmer Cabaret to accommodate the crowds, and the book will have several promotions throughout. Station Casinos is giving away two jerseys each day for the first two weeks of the tournament.

Rood said MGM Resorts will host a party during the final match in the Terry Fator Theatre at The Mirage.

“If Mexico or the U.S. advance out of group play, I would say that would be very comparable to NFL playoffs,” Kornegay said. “That bandwagon will fill up very fast. But it will be popular no matter what.”