Gambling Twitter, fueled by its disdain for the tout industry, flexed its muscle last week, ridiculing the Vegas Golden Knights for partnering with a betting pick-selling service and celebrating when the relationship was nixed just three days after its inception.
On Wednesday, the Knights named UpickTrade the team’s Official Picks Service Partner, promising to promote the company on social media platforms and on boards lining the rink inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. UpickTrade sells betting picks, including on the NHL, for $89 a month. The deal was billed as the first sponsorship agreement between a Mexican-based company and an NHL club and also the first partnership between a professional sports franchise and a pick-seller.
The Knights posted the announcement on Twitter — a tweet that has since been deleted — and ignited a firestorm of criticism from the community of bookmakers and bettors who make up Gambling Twitter.
“Is this a joke?” professional sports bettor Rufus Peabody asked on Twitter after seeing the announcement.
“[I] thought this was an Onion story,” Robert Walker, a longtime Nevada bookmaker now with US Bookmaking, added in a tweet.
On Saturday, the deal was terminated by the Knights.
“My work here is done,” Keith Fridrich, another veteran bookmaker and critic of the Knights’ deal, tweeted Saturday night.
You don’t often see bettors and bookmakers unite, but that’s how widely despised the tout industry is. In fact, there may not be a profession with a worse reputation than a pick-seller. Not all touts are dirty, of course, and boiled down, picks are just content that consumers can decide whether to purchase. However, the industry’s reputation has been built on decades of bad actors using unscrupulous tactics such as falsifying records, selling both sides of games and claiming to have inside information. Almost all of it is nonsense, a ruse to convince naïve bettors that the tout of the day has the secret sauce to success in the sports betting world.
In the end, it’s likely a lesson learned for the Knights and all sports teams and leagues about a part of the betting world that requires extreme caution. It’s also evidence of the influence that Gambling Twitter has.
“Obviously, they should have ended that partnership,” one professional bettor told ESPN, “but if there is no social media, I’m guessing they never would have.” — David Purdum
What was Vegas thinking?: This was a decision so egregious that it really makes you wonder how it even got this far. How many Golden Knights executives signed off on this? Did anyone raise concerns? I’m all for innovation and thinking outside the box, but you also have to read the room and understand why stereotypes exist. And the last thing you can have is presumed shadiness, even if everything is ethical and well-intentioned. On top of that, you reside in Vegas and should understand the narratives, as some other franchises might lean on your de facto expertise.
Sports betting legalization has achieved quicker corporate acceptance than I anticipated, as we approach the three-year mark since the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The leagues have kept an open mind and embraced this new territory, while admittedly welcoming advertising revenue. Most importantly, leagues and teams have demonstrated they believe partnering with gaming operators will not compromise the games’ integrity. But there is a limit to this and optics do matter, especially with this new era still so young. Partnering with a tout service, especially one with such a documented checkered track record, should never have even reached this point. — Doug Kezirian
Indeed, it was another entertaining week in the sports betting world. Here is Daily Wager and Chalk sports betting analyst Doug Kezirian and sports betting reporter David Purdum’s odds-and-ends look at it all.
Super Bowl betting investigation in Tennessee: The Tennessee Lottery is investigating alleged illegal bets placed on the Super Bowl with two of the state’s four licensed sportsbooks. A spokesperson for the lottery told ESPN that its investigation revealed violations of state and federal law. As a result, 74 betting accounts were closed and some open bets were canceled ahead of the Super Bowl. A lottery investigator said last week that the bets were placed from a “group of individual accounts” and “another group of accounts being used by one [individual].” Match-fixing or point-shaving are not believed to be the focus of the investigation. More specifics have not been disclosed, as the investigation continues. — David Purdum
Looking ahead to look-aheads: Old-school handicappers love situational handicapping, and there is arguably no better betting angle than legitimate spots where teams are looking past an opponent … a.k.a. “the look-ahead spot.” In college hoops, fading Duke and North Carolina in the game prior to their rivalry matchup is a popular tactic, especially when they are sizeable favorites.
Both cooperated earlier this season. On Feb. 1, Duke lost outright as an 11-point favorite at Miami. The Blue Devils fell to 1-10 ATS in their last 11 games in this particular situation and are 16-33 ATS over the last 25 regular seasons. On Feb. 2, thanks to 17 turnovers, UNC lost by double-digits as a road favorite at Clemson.
The next rivalry game is slated for this Saturday in Chapel Hill. Prior to that, Duke plays at Georgia Tech on Tuesday and should be favored by around two points. The Tar Heels visit Syracuse tonight as a one-point favorite. — Doug Kezirian
Notable losing bet: William Hill US reported taking an $80,000 money-line bet on Baylor (-200) to beat Kansas on Saturday, a giant wager for college basketball. The Jayhawks upended the previously-unbeaten Bears 71-58. — David Purdum
Notable winning bet: On Feb. 3, a bettor with William Hill US in Nevada placed a $110,000 bet on Canelo Alvarez to defeat long-shot Avni Yildirim at -4,000 odds. Alvarez finished off Yildirim with a third-round TKO, and the bettor won a net $2,750. — David Purdum
Bright lights: The Brooklyn Nets are reinforcing an NBA postseason narrative about stars shining when the lights are the brightest. Will a team be able to beat three future Hall-of-Famers in a best-of-7 series? In the regular season, Brooklyn is dominating the marquee games, and they’re doing a majority of this damage without the entire trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving being intact. The Nets did fall to the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday on ABC. Brooklyn fell to 11-2 both straight up and against the spread in nationally-televised games. Durant and Irving did not play. — Doug Kezirian
Trendy overs: At some point, the oddsmakers will catch up to the New Orleans Pelicans and Nets. However, it hasn’t happened yet and the public continues to ride the gravy train. The Pelicans are 23-4-1 to the over in their last 28 games, which includes nine of the last 10. The Nets are 22-7 to the over in their last 29; however, the under has connected in four of the last five. Both Brooklyn and New Orleans struggle defensively and have potent offenses, but for whatever reason, oddsmakers are missing with the totals. — Doug Kezirian
Who’s laughing now?: Social media was filled with criticism and mockery once BetMGM announced that it received a wager of $10,000 on the Washington Wizards to win the NBA title at 500-1 odds. A $5 million payout is certainly enticing, but this team was sitting outside the playoff race and closer to the draft lottery than a championship conversation. Since that bet, the Wizards have posted a 5-2 record with upset wins over the Denver Nuggets (twice), Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers. BetMGM currently has the Wiz at 400-1. — Doug Kezirian
NBA odds update: Heading into All-Star week, the Utah Jazz have had their odds to win the NBA title improve more than any other team. After opening at 42-1, the Jazz are now +950 at FanDuel.
The Lakers remain the consensus favorites and have attracted more than double the amount of money wagered than any other team in BetMGM’s title odds pool.
LeBron James is the consensus favorite to be named regular-season MVP. More than 32% of MVP bets at PointsBet are on James. — David Purdum
Ping-pong punting: $11.8 million was bet on table tennis in January with Colorado sportsbooks. That’s more than was bet on hockey ($9.6 million) and more than was bet on soccer, college football and MMA combined during January, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue. — David Purdum