In this week's installment of Inside Gaming, we discuss heavy betting on both the "Brexit" vote and Game 7 of the NBA Finals, then take a quick look at a new exposé reporting on a popular site that sells sports betting picks.
Brexit Vote Inspires Surge of Political-Event Betting
You've no doubt heard by now the result of yesterday's historic vote in which the United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union by a close margin of 51.89% for "Leave" versus 48.11% for "Remain." This morning commentators all over the world are sharing observations and predictions about what will come next for the U.K., with opinions being as divided as was the vote itself.
Speaking of trying to predict the future, the prospect of the vote and the U.K.'s possible withdrawal from the E.U. — commonly called "Brexit" (short for "British exit") — became the focus of gamblers who bet heavily on the outcome right up until the polls closed last night.
On Wednesday an article in The New York Times noted the closeness of polling regarding the vote while declaring "'Brexit' Vote Already Has a Winner: The Gambling Industry." Pre-vote betting had "tilted heavily toward Britain sticking with the European Union," and were interpreted as relatively reliable indicators of what might happen amid the general uncertainty leading up to the vote.
"Far from a curiosity, the gambling markets stand as a rare source of something approximating clarity in the face of Brexit-borne confusion, assuming they turn out to be right," explained the NYT.
That last disclaimer is key, of course, as it turned out the betting during the final hours preceding the vote did not provide a good predictor of the result.
Mike Smithson of PoliticalBetting.com described Brexit to the NYT as "the biggest political betting event of all time, anywhere," estimating his site had taken more than £3 million worth of wagers, with "three-fourths landing on remain." Meanwhile a spokesman for Britain's largest bookmaker, William Hill, "assume[d] the industry will collectively count wagers reaching £20 million... before the Brexit results are in."
That said, such figures pale in comparison to sports betting in the U.K. For example, William Hill estimates more than £500 million will be bet on the ongoing UEFA European Championship.
Meanwhile CDC Gaming spoke with Matthew Shaddick who oversees political betting at Ladbrokes to see if he could offer an explanation for why Brexit betting proved an inaccurate indicator of the result.
"Is this just one of the inevitable, normal occasions where an outsider wins, or a fatal blow to the idea of betting markets as being a useful forecasting tool?" asked Shaddick. "I tend to think the former, but that doesn't mean we don't have to reflect on all of their potential flaws."
Shaddick added that while more money indeed was bet on Remain, more individual bets backed Leave.
Learn more about political betting and Brexit at the New York Times, and check out CDC Gaming's post-mortem "How did the Bookies get it so wrong: Ladbrokes tries to explain."
Cavs-Warriors Game 7 Breaks Betting Records for Vegas Sportsbooks
Sticking with the topic of heavily-bet events, Monday's Game 7 of the NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors was the most bet NBA game in history, reports David Purdum for ESPN.
Purdum's proclamation came after speaking with several Nevada bookmakers, among them Bill Sattler of Caesars who called Game 7 "the most heavily bet NBA game that I can remember in my 29 years" in the industry. While Golden State had been the favorite playing at home, Cleveland won the game 93-89.
Over at William Hill's Nevada Sportsbook, there were three times as many bets and three times the "handle" or total amounts of bets taken on Game 7 than it took on its most heavily-bet game of the 2015-16 regular season. Both the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook and the MGM Grand Race and Sports Book also reported record-setting volume.
According to Jeff Stoneback of MGM, they "had more six-figure bets in two days on this game than sometimes we get in the first week or 10 days leading up to the Super Bowl."
That said, the Cavs' victory wasn't the best outcome for the sportsbooks, given that more money overall had been wagered on the underdog to win.
Dribble over to ESPN for more on the craziness surrounding Game 7 betting.
Feature Shines Harsh Light on World of Sports-Betting Touts
Finally, sports bettors will probably find a new feature appearing on the Deadspin site this week an interesting read. "How America's Favorite Sports Betting Expert Turned A Sucker's Game into an Industry" by Ryan Goldberg presents a lengthy profile of RJ Bell of Pregame.com that delves deeply into the controversial world of the so-called "tout" industry.
The article — which Goldberg tweeted had taken over a year to research — provides a historical look at Pregame.com's rise to prominence over recent years as both Bell and the site became increasingly conspicuous on mainstream sports and news outlets. Along the way, Goldberg shares an eyebrow-raising statistic regarding the accuracy of picks recommended by the site's experts over the last five-and-a-half years: "If you had bought and played all of Pregame's picks since 2011, you'd be down $1,359,432."
The article shares data regarding individual experts' performances (from Jan 1, 2011 through May 30, 2016) and totals after fees charged. It goes on to share stories and commentary from numerous gamblers and others in the sports betting industry regarding Pregame.com in particular and the business model of pick-selling in general, as well as to investigate the relationship between some "tout" sites and offshore online sportsbooks.
Head over to Deadspin if you're curious to read this comprehensive study that's got many talking in the world of sports betting.