By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – The Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians own Major League Baseball’s longest active dry spells and their intriguing championship clash has set off a World Series betting frenzy in Las Vegas unlike any seen before.
The Cubs, whose last World Series appearance came in 1945, are seeking their first MLB crown since 1908 while the Indians, who last appeared in the Fall Classic in 1997, haven’t won it all since 1948.
Nevada does not track World Series betting but a number of sportsbooks on the Las Vegas Strip expect wagers to exceed the unofficial record set in 2004 when the Boston Red Sox snapped their 86-year championship drought.
“Because both of these teams haven’t been there in such a long time it’s capturing non-baseball fans’ attention as well,” Jay Kornegay, vice president race and sport operations Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, told Reuters on Monday.
“This is probably going to be the most popular betting World Series that we’ve seen in recent memory … based on what we’ve seen so far I’m pretty sure the wagering will surpass what we saw in 2004.”
The two teams, who open the best-of-seven World Series in Cleveland on Tuesday, are both carrying generations-long anticipation into the championship.
The Cubs are favorites to snap 108 years of misery, a run that includes the “Curse of the Billy Goat” that dates back to the 1945 World Series when a local bar owner supposedly placed a hex on the club for booting his foul-smelling pet goat out of Wrigley Field.
Many fans blamed that so-called “curse” with an incident in 2003 when Cubs fan Steve Bartman, with his team ahead 3-0 and five outs from a World Series berth, reached for and deflected a foul ball that a Chicago outfielder appeared ready to catch. The Cubs went on to lose 8-3 and lost the series the next night.
MGM Resorts International, which operates 10 sports book on the Las Vegas Strip, feels the Cubs’ heart-wrenching history will help World Series-related betting reach levels usually reserved for National Football League games.
“The whole Cubs history is playing right into it,” Jay Rood, vice president of the race and sports operations at MGM Resorts, toldReuters. “People that aren’t traditional baseball people are going to be tuning in just because some of the storylines that are going to come up.
“It’s going to have little more personality than a normal World Series will.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Steve Keating)