Are sportsbooks cheering for KC Chiefs to win Super Bowl? Here’s what oddsmakers say

·5 min read
John Locher/AP

Colby Powell was ready to put his money behind his convictions.

Powell, a former sports radio show host in Oklahoma City who now works in the car-buying industry, was shocked to see the Kansas City Chiefs’ odds to win the Super Bowl following a 38-20 home loss to the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 10, 2021.

Four days later, he went to his favorite online betting site and put $40 on the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl. If it happened, he’d get his $40 back, plus $320 more.

“Everyone was overreacting,” Powell said. “Couldn’t believe they were 8-to-1 (odds).”

Powell’s wager came at an impressive time, but he’s also far from alone when it comes to folks having some stake in the Chiefs this season.

KC, in general, is what bookies like to call a “public” team. Because the Chiefs are popular with common fans, the volume of wagers on them tends to be higher than others.

So what does that mean for Las Vegas’ bottom line? And does it imply bookies will cheer against the Chiefs, starting with Sunday’s AFC Championship against the Cincinnati Bengals?

Well ... not exactly.

Jay Kornegay, executive vice president for SuperBook Sports Operations, is here to explain, saying he’s one of many in the sportsbook industry who will be a Chiefs fan over the next few weeks.

Or — more accurately — that KC will not be the team he’s rooting hardest against.

Why KC Chiefs don’t scare sportsbooks

Kornegay clicks his mouse a few times, sifting through numbers on his computer to confirm what he’d already suspected.

Among the four squads remaining (Chiefs, Bengals, San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams), the Chiefs have the highest number of tickets bought for “futures” bets — wagers claiming a team will win either its conference championship game or the Super Bowl.

While on the surface that doesn’t sound promising for Kornegay and the Westgate SuperBook, he contends the Chiefs remain among the least of his worries.

The reason for that is in the numbers. Before the 2021 season, KC opened at SuperBook at 5-to-1 odds to win the Super Bowl, moving as high as 14-to-1 after the team’s 3-4 start.

And while SuperBook took lots of action on KC — the Chiefs are tied for the second-highest number of “futures” bets this season at SuperBook, behind only the Bills while tied with the Green Bay Packers — none of those wager amounts were overly significant.

This also helped: Vegas remained bullish on KC after its early struggles while not overreacting to the first seven weeks.

“There’s a lot of tickets on them (Chiefs). They’re just at low odds,” Kornegay told The Star. “And normally, that does not create liability for us.”

Instead, Kornegay has to worry about a low number of bets remaining with potentially astronomical payouts.

And for now, he certainly has one of those.

A half-million-dollar jackpot?

One bettor had some foresight.

Before the final week of the regular season, when San Francisco was barely better than a coin-flip to make the playoffs according to some projection models, SuperBook moved its odds to 200-to-1 for the 49ers to win the Super Bowl. That was when SuperBook accepted a $2,400 wager on San Francisco to win it all.

Since then, the 49ers defeated the Rams in Week 18, then the Dallas Cowboys and Packers in consecutive road playoff games.

If San Francisco can win two more, then, SuperBook would be on the hook ... for a $480,000 payout on one ticket alone.

So yes, Kornegay says, that would cause him some headaches, chuckling while saying that outcome would force him into additional calls and meetings with higher-ups.

“It’d be nice to have an AFC champion this year,” he said with a laugh.

All sportsbooks wouldn’t agree with that specific view, though.

Motoi Pearson, Senior Trader for WynnBET and one of its lead oddsmakers, says his company is more uneasy about another team: the Bengals.

Pearson said WynnBet has the most remaining “futures” tickets out with the Chiefs, but like SuperBook, its odds didn’t change too drastically during KC’s mid-October downswing while topping out at 16-to-1.

“We figured a few people were going to buy low on the Chiefs,” Pearson said. “We did a pretty good job of weathering that storm.”

By far, Pearson said, the once-longshot Bengals remain WynnBet’s most significant liability, which means what one might expect heading into Sunday’s matchup at Arrowhead Stadium.

“I’d say we’re OK,” Pearson said, “to cheer for the Chiefs.”

‘A roller-coaster of emotions’

Kornegay has been working in the betting industry since 1987, and he said watching the end of last week’s Chiefs-Bills classic in the Divisional Round was a top-five sportsbook moment in his career.

“It was just a roller-coaster of emotions throughout the room,” Kornegay said of fans’ response at SuperBook. “And it was fantastic.”

KC’s unlikely rally, which included a final comeback to tie it with 13 seconds left in regulation, reshuffled the Super Bowl favorites afterward. As of this week at SuperBook, the Chiefs are 6-to-5 to win it all, followed by the Rams ($100 bet would win $210, or +210), San Francisco (+475) and Cincinnati (+800).

Kornegay’s cheering order is different. The huge 49ers wager is still out there, while the Rams have received continuous activity as a “sharp, sexy pick” since opening the season with 20-to-1 odds.

“Right now, we’re rooting for the Chiefs or the Bengals,” Kornegay said. “We’re not in a good position for the NFC teams.”

On a smaller scale, Powell remains riveted, as well.

He watched every snap of the Chiefs-Bills game last week, convinced late in the fourth quarter he was soon to be out 40 bucks.

The Chiefs rallied, though, and Powell’s wager remains live.

And if KC can pull off two more wins, he’ll follow through on a plan to use some of the $320 on his first child — a daughter — who is due in early April.

“Would only be fitting,” Powell said, “if I spent part of it on a Chiefs onesie.”

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