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Sports bettors savor upgrades at Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook

7 December 2015

LAS VEGAS – It's a football Saturday in November and, as usual, the newly renovated race and sportsbook inside Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino is bustling. Seating is at capacity, and steady lines of bettors flood the recently minted ticket counters. As Jay Kornegay stands at the front of the book and explains in detail all the changes that are being made as part of this prodigious renovation project, he is dwarfed by an Alabama offensive lineman on the massive screen above him.

The video wall at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook is 220 feet long and stands 18 feet high.

The video wall at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook is 220 feet long and stands 18 feet high.

While it's clear the customers with parlay tickets in their hands and adult beverages in front of them are relishing the upgrades, it's a safe bet that nobody appreciates them more than Kornegay, the vice president of race and sports operations. His early days in the business came in the late 1980s when he ran the book at the now-defunct Imperial Palace, now home to The LINQ Hotel & Casino three miles down the Strip.

"Yeah, we've come a long way," Kornegay says with a wide smile. "At the IP, we had a very small spot tucked away on the second floor. It was tough to find. We had dry-eraser boards to post the odds and little plaques for each team that we manually posted on the wall. It was nothing like this."

The "this" Kornegay refers to is the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, which at just under 30,000 square feet is the largest of its kind in the world. Kornegay has been here for 10 years, and the book has always been known for its size – even during its days as The International, the LVH and the Las Vegas Hilton. But when Westgate bought the property and changed its name in July 2014, the new owners immediately put a $100 million renovation plan into action for the resort, including major upgrades to the SuperBook that would make it famous for more than just its enormity.

"We want this to be a Las Vegas landmark," Kornegay explains. "We want people to want to come and see it like they want to go and see the fountains at Bellagio. When it's all said and done, we will not only be the largest sportsbook in the world, but the most technically advanced. That's our goal."

Phase I of the sportsbook renovation began in July, and when it's completed in the next month or so, the total cost will be $13 million. The improvements are many, but none bigger (cliché intended) than the avant-garde video wall that runs 220 feet across the front wall of the sportsbook and stands 18 feet high, replacing the previously placed 60 projection screens. The screens are 2.5K pixel resolution, which, according to Kornegay, means they are five times as clear as the renowned boards at New York's Times Square and at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys. The wall has 4K capability and is made up of seven different screens. Each can feature as many as nine games at a time.

On this day, two of the boards employ what Kornegay calls a "2-3 format" (two games up top, three games on smaller boxes below) another features one game taking up about a third of the screen with four other games on smaller screens surrounding it. The big game of the day – LSU vs. Alabama – flashes across two full screens with the volume blaring. In all, there is a delicious menu of as many as 20 different events on the wall.

Three other screens display the betting odds of the day in vertical format, with green, black and white lettering that is easy to read and far different from the black screen and yellow block lettering you find at most other books. There is discussion about adding a "What's Trending?" board, showing guests what the most popular wagers of the day are along with other betting trends.

Simply put, once you arrive inside the book, it's nearly impossible to take your eyes off the screens.

"It definitely provides that 'Wow!' factor we were looking for," adds Kornegay, who has become famous for regularly posting a wide range of proposition bets, as well as for the wildly popular SuperContest, a weekly NFL handicapping contest that drew a record 1,727 entrants this year.

Other enhancements at the SuperBook include new carpeting and a 60-seat bar that faces directly at the video wall and stretches more than 40 feet across the length of the room. The bar replaces banks of slot machines, but has video gaming machines sunken into the counter. In front of the new bar, a VIP area with private cabanas is being built and should be completed by the end of this month.

Jay Kornegay envisions the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook becoming a Las Vegas landmark akin to the Bellagio fountains.

Jay Kornegay envisions the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook becoming a Las Vegas landmark akin to the Bellagio fountains.

Each box will accommodate between six and eight guests and will be equipped with charging stations and include a 32-inch private touch screen that can be split into as many as four different screens. The cabanas will be available for rent by the day or by the hour, and are flexible enough to be combined to host larger parties.

Phase II of the project will bring new restrooms and an upgrade to the food and beverage venue and menu currently offered at the Superbook Deli in the back of the book. The deli sits next door to the "Ultimate Fan Cave," a nonsmoking section that is filled with lounge chair and sofa seating and has 120-inch HD screens, capable of showing up to 16 events.

The sportsbook, of course, isn't the lone space in the resort being touched by the $100 million project. A number of new dining options have been added, as well as a concierge lounge; a full remodel of the 225,000 square-foot convention center; and a bank of new 400 square-foot Signature Rooms, highlighted by marble floors, Cameo carpet, 60-inch LED flat-screen TVs and views of the Strip or Las Vegas Country Club.

While many resort casinos in Las Vegas and across the world have poured millions of dollars into improving the guest experience in recent years, the number of sportsbooks receiving this kind of attention is low. Once considered a "loss leader" for casinos, much like poker rooms, race and sportsbooks don't typically attract a large profit margin and are offered as a "courtesy."

But stand and look around the new Westgate Las Vegas Sportsbook, and that thought process seems to have gone the route of a one-armed bandit slot machine.

"Our owners have made it pretty clear that they are dedicated and committed to making this the very best offering for race and sports fans; something they have never experienced before," said Kornegay, who heads a staff of about 50 people. "That certainly makes you appreciate what's going here. It's going to draw both the casual bettor and the high-volume bettor alike because, as I said before, this is something everyone is going to want to see."
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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT