Four months after the Boston Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, ending their 86-year championship drought, then-Caesars Palace sportsbook director Chuck Esposito was sifting through baseball revenue numbers, trying to figure out why they had won so much more money than he had expected.
"A lot of the [Red Sox] futures tickets went uncashed. People saved those as souvenirs," Esposito recalled. "It wouldn't surprise me if the same thing happened again with the Cubs."
Las Vegas sportsbooks allow guests to mail in winning tickets anytime from up to 30 days to as much as a year after the event is completed. At Station Casinos, the deadline is 180 days to cash a winning ticket. (Although, being the generous bookmakers they are, the rule is loosely enforced). There are a massive amount of Cubs futures tickets out there, each with mailing instructions on the back. The Cubs, as longtime lovable losers, have always been a popular bet in Las Vegas and were often among the sportsbooks' worst-case scenarios.
This year, with the Cubs the favorites, even more bets showed up at the windows. Three and four times more bets were placed on the Cubs to win the World Series than on any other team. And, yet, Las Vegas still won.
"We actually needed the Cubs in the Series and in Game 7," Esposito, now the sportsbook director at the Sunset Station casino, said. Esposito, a Chicago native and lifelong Cubs fan, watched Wednesday's Game 7 at Brando's, a Las Vegas sports bar that caters to Chicago fans. He said the bar went silent when Cleveland Indians centerfielder Rajai Davis tied the game with a two-run home run off Cubs reliever Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning.
Shortly after, Esposito elected to race home during the 17-minute rain delay between the ninth and 10th innings. He made it home and got to enjoy a special moment for him, his 12-year-old son Nicholas and all of baseball.
"I think [Nicholas] understood by my reaction and probably the tears in my eyes that it was something that was pretty special," said Esposito.
The betting on the seven-game World Series was "phenomenal," Esposito said.
"The overall handle for our sportsbooks and the atmosphere and excitement and the crowds, I can't remember it being like that of late for a World Series," Esposito said.
Like Esposito, Aaron Kessler, sportsbook manager at the Golden Nugget, is a native of Chicago and lifelong Cubs fan. During his 10 years working at the Golden Nugget sportsbook, he had missed family events and weddings, because he couldn't get off during football season. But he made it happen for the Cubs' return to the World Series.
"It was incredible," said Kessler, who took time off and traveled to Cleveland for Games 6 and 7. "It was the first days I've taken off during football season, other than my normal days off, in 10 years, since I've had this job."
The Golden Nugget, like most books in town, was in good position on either the Cubs or Indians winning the World Series, so Kessler didn't have to worry about rooting against his employer's best interests.
"If my job was on the line, that would pretty much be the only thing that would prevent me from rooting for the Cubs," Kessler said with a chuckle.
Stratosphere sportsbook manager Hugh Citron, another native of Chicago and lifelong Cubs fan, couldn't get off from his busy shift to watch Game 7. He caught bits and pieces of the game while working Wednesday and was back in the office entering a final score on an NHL game when he heard a loud "yelp."
"I saw [Davis] going around the bases with his arms out and said, 'that's not good,'" Citron told ESPN. Citron's late mother and father were big Cubs fans.
"I'm going out to the cemetery (on Monday) to put a Cubs hat and jersey on Mom and Dad's grave," he added.
Odds and ends
-- It was another up-and-down weekend for Las Vegas sportsbooks, which saw Saturday end with back-to-back wins by heavily-bet favorites Alabama and Ohio State. The Buckeyes' 62-3 rout of Nebraska produced the Westgate SuperBook's biggest loss on an overall losing day for the house. Sunday wasn't much better. The MGM sportsbook came up on the short end in four of the six early games and were hit hard by the Dallas Cowboys' 35-10 blowout of the winless Cleveland Browns. However, the Indianapolis Colts' outright upset of the Green Bay Packers helped the house mitigate a lot of the early losses, leading to a break-even day at the Westgate.
-- Game 7 of the World Series generated big handle, but it was still far less than the Super Bowl. More than seven times more bets were placed on Super Bowl 50 on the Sunday of the game at William Hill's Nevada sportsbooks than were placed Wednesday on Game 7 of the World Series.
-- Updated lines at the Westgate SuperBook
Nov. 26: Michigan at Ohio State -4.5
Nov. 26: Auburn at Alabama -14