Betting is easy when you know who wins
One of my wildest fantasies is to get a copy of Grays Sports Almanac and then make a boatload of money betting on sporting events for which I know the outcome. While that is not at all possible until I acquire a DeLorean, a situation did arise last week in the mixed martial arts world where it seems like some people did wager on bouts with knowledge of the results.
The matches were not fixed, but rather were taped and broadcast later, while sportsbooks continued to accept bets. As such, regulators and sportsbooks are investigating the matter.
On Friday, April 1, fuboTV advertised that night’s broadcast of the Professional Fighters League (PFL) Challenger Series as airing live at 9:00pm ET. Odds on the bouts moved sharply that day in favor of the fighters who won, so much so that betting watchdog U.S. Integrity noticed. It checked with the PFL and on Saturday informed the sportsbooks that the fights were taped on March 25, but not broadcast until April 1.
For example, Bet365’s line on Rakim Talley moved from -290 to -2,500. Naturally, he won.
U.S. Integrity advised the sportsbooks to get in touch with state regulators, saying (credit to ESPN.com for obtaining the communication), “As such, it’s very possible that any potentially suspicious wagering activity is indicative of nefarious behavior.”
Some sportsbooks have yet to settle bets on the fights and several state regulators told ESPN that they are investigating what happened. The PFL said that this was the first time that its initial broadcast of an event was not actually live, but didn’t say why that was.
Who dropped the ball?
PFL spokesperson Loren Mack said that sportsbooks that took bets on the fights did so without the PFL’s permission and that the league entered into confidentiality agreements with all stakeholders.
Mack also told ESPN that the “PFL did not include any betting lines, content, or promotion in connection with the program,” and while the betting lines part might be true, the PFL did put out loads of promotional tweets leading up to the event, including photos of each fighter’s weigh-in and at least one Twitter post that said the Challenger Series was “Live and Free Friday Night on @fubosports!”
Jennifer Press, senior vice president of communications for fuboTV, said that the network accidentally used “the same promo copy” for the April 1 event as it did for previous events.
DraftKings told ESPN that it thought the event was live, but actually noticed “unusual activity on a number of fights” and took the fights down. It is working with regulators on the next steps.
Mistakes certainly happen once in while, but this is unusual. Gaming regulation consultant Karl Bennison told ESPN that “he doesn’t recall a similar situation involving an apparent misrepresentation of an event date, noting that there have been periodic cases when sportsbooks make a mistake and input information, such as start times of an event, incorrectly.”
But for all the sportsbooks to believe the event was on April 1 when it really took place a week earlier is quite odd. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke.