Betting on last weekend's NBA 2K Players Tournament was suspended
It was all intended upon good fun and to alleviate boredom. And certainly, upon a good cause for our current Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Last weekend's eSports competition matching popular NBA stars from their living rooms in jovial battle had the makings of the same ferocious mettle they display on the hardwood court, with proper and safe social distancing, of course.
The added necessary dimension was that odds were attached to the NBA players (competitors) by many of the top online sportsbooks to add interest on what "normally" would have been a very busy sports Sunday. Remember, on the early April betting calendar, we would have a mixture of major league baseball, NBA basketball, NHL hockey. Not to mention The Masters and planning for the NCAA Basketball Championship the next Monday night. Wow.
The Game Plan
A popular group of NBA players agreed to put together a small eSports tournament within the confines of their homes for charity support of Coronavirus. ESPN would televise the NBA 2K Players Tournament as it would include popular stars, including Kevin Durant, Trae Young, Zach LaVine, Andre Drummond and others. Not much pre-publicity was involved, and limited exposure due to the last-minute planning.
Many well-known bookmakers, including Bovada, 5Dimes, BetOnline and others, got quickly involved setting wagering lines to accompany fan and bettor interest. It would have been impossible to determine a realistic board of even wagering equity due to the unique nature of the concept and limited knowledge of each player's specific eSports talent. No one has better skills determining equitable betting odds than these elite sports books. But in the spirit of cause, a fair table of wagering was established.
The number one seed Durant, currently on injury hold awaiting to play for his new team Brooklyn Nets, was set to take on #16 seed Derrick Jones, Jr. of the Miami Heat in the first round of NBA 2K Players Tournament. It did not take long for elite-rated sportsbook MyBookie.ag to see an inordinate and suspicious amount of money wagered on longshot Jones. They quickly pulled the line off the board as did other books immediately noticing a disturbing trend. Jones easily won the competition 78-62.
One of the most important characteristics earning these books their elite or platinum-level status is their dependable record of fairly paying off wagers, no matter what the circumstances. In this case, there was no doubt that some unknown insider had leaked privileged information about this pre-determined competition that only took place hours before airing.
Losses at MyBookie were estimated to be in the "low five figure range". Not a huge amount, but still significant due to a non-traditional sporting event. Also, quite sensitive due to the overall business losses accumulating every day to major losses of content and games on the board. No direct figure losses have been reported by other books thus far.
Head oddsmaker at MyBookie, David Strauss, explained to Reuters, "It became clear that somebody knew something, and that the results had been leaked. That's a nightmare scenario for us. When a result is compromised, we close the lines and look for the info ourselves. It's almost always in the forums or on Twitter."
At this juncture no one directly has been found responsible. An investigation is ongoing with full confidence the small amount of people having knowledge of the results will result in finding the culprit.
Out of Something Bad
Here's hoping something good will come out of something bad here. That is: Finally learning that there is no basis for setting lines on predetermined events. Trusting anyone that involves a vote or a competition that is pre-recorded when the results ARE PREVIOUSLY KNOWN is risky business. That simply is not gambling, whether involved in any definition of skill or chance. Period.
The good news here (if you could call it that) is that only a relatively small amount of money was lost to very reliable and honest sportsbooks. However, it should serve as a wake-up call for the future for any events where a potential larger amount of wagering activity is involved.
Not only that, but a much, much bigger issue is potentially hurting the event or events themselves and tainting the gaming industry as an unfair corrupt motivator.
The Academy Awards and The Bachelor have become two very popular categories to wager on over the last five years within the online gaming sector. The Academy Awards (Oscars) especially due to its timing on the sports calendar falling in late February, three weeks after the Super Bowl and within a somewhat down period in the basketball/hockey seasons.
Compared to an NBA 2K competition, a more liberal amount of money can be waged on several Academy Award categories. What they do have in common is they are both predetermined events. Should insider voting knowledge be leaked to gain advantage, it would not only end wagering there but cause an awful scandal inside the entertainment industry.
Same goes for The Bachelor, which is also NOT A LIVE EVENT. If even a noticeable huge wagering push toward one specific bachelorette emerges, it would kill the drama, honestly and spontaneity the television audience holds so scared to its success. No matter how many waivers and non-disclosure agreements are signed within the people involved, if enough financial gain is potential for other parties to obtain, a major risk is certainly involved.
Not the Black Sox
I'm not suggesting or warning this is another Black Sox Scandal of 1919 waiting to happen. Just common sense to consider the risk versus reward of offering wagering on any event that has a predetermined ending. Although certainly well-intended, MyBookie.ag or any other very established sportsbook has only themselves to blame for the unfortunate outcome.
In this case, there is some understanding, due to the lack of traditional sports wagering product offered because of the current crisis were facing with COVID-19. No doubt Durant vs. Jones Jr. was a lot more compelling betting interest than say, Russian ping pong or Swedish amateur soccer.
Just sayin' that when we get back to "normal sports betting life," post Coronavirus, there is more than enough content available to wager upon, including significant prop bets and in-play wagering to risk any major problem involving any known or pre-existing competition or entertainment.
And to prove it, sadly, you're not likely to see future rounds of NBA 2K competitions beyond Saturday on ESPN to entertain you or to aid Coronavirus victims next week.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, including previews and picks from Glenn, click here.