We’ve all had some version of that Back to the Future II fantasy. We have knowledge of the results of sporting events – with or without a sports almanac – and take advantage of that information by racking up sports betting winnings. An imperfect but quite profitable variation of the fantasy happened in Las Vegas this weekend when a mistake in BetMGM’s software let some observant customers take BetMGM and the Bellagio for almost a quarter million dollars.
With Major League Baseball still yet to start its 2020 season, baseball fans really jonesing for a game have been watching Korea’s KBO League either in the wee hours of the morning because of time zone differences or on tape delay. And it was these games – along with games of the Chinese Professional Baseball League – that bettors at the BetMGM Sportsbook at Bellagio through money at early Sunday morning.
But BetMGM screwed up. The games began at 1:00am PT and 2:00am PT, but an unknown number of bettors placed their wagers between 1:30am and 3:00am. Now, people make “in-play” bets during games all the time, but these weren’t in-play bets. These were pre-game bets on things like the moneyline and totals.
Someone at BetMGM accidentally input the wrong starting times for several games, so the system thought the games had yet to begin even though they were already well underway. Most of the approximately 50 bets in question were made a self-serve kiosk, so most did not have the possibility of a staffer noticing a problem.
As might be obvious, placing a bet when the game is already partway toward its outcome gives the bettor a massive advantage.
ESPN was able to find out about a couple examples of bets the customers placed. Many tickets, ESPN said, had the NC Dinos at -110 against the Doosan Bears and under the total of nine combined runs. At 2:28am, the Dinos hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning to break a scoreless tie and eventually won 5-0. Someone who made that bet after that point would have had a great chance to strike gold (and did) because the game was already half over and the Dinos were ahead by three, plus the total was still low.
It was also no coincidence that some of the tickets at a bet on the over 9.5 between KT Wiz Suwon and Hanwha Eagles, a game in which there were already seven runs scored in the first two innings. The total ended up at 12.
BetMGM was excited about a customer having a great night, as evidenced by Elisa Richardson, head of BetMGM communications and public relations, tweeting a picture of a winning ten-leg parlay for $137,107.38. The tweet was deleted a few hours later, likely because BetMGM figured out what had happened.
A customer also posted an image of a $100 eight-leg parlay that came in for $11,156.60. Five of the games were KBO games that started at 1:00am, but the bet wasn’t placed until nearly two hours later.
Roar Digital, which manages BetMGM, said that the situation has been addressed and that the company is working with the Nevada Gaming Commission to investigate the matter.
As for whether or not those who already received their winnings will get to keep them, the answer sounds like a “perhaps.” Two sportsbook executives told ESPN that the standard practice is two give the player a choice: get a refund of the ticket, no harm, no foul, or keep the money and be banned from the sportsbook.