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A $3 million parlay, and a huge bet that nearly backfired

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Last Tuesday, according to DraftKings, an unidentified bettor risked $3 million on a three-leg parlay featuring the following: Georgia to win the SEC East division; Alabama to win the SEC West division; the Packers to win the NFC North division.

If successful, this bet would pay out $8.6 million, a $5.6 million net profit for the customer.

It’s the largest parlay bet that Johnny Avello, DraftKings’ sportsbook director and a 30-plus-year Nevada bookmaker, has ever taken. And it’s certainly among the biggest ever placed with a U.S. sportsbook — and it may not even have been the most interesting bet of the week.

On Thursday, a bettor at the William Hill sportsbook at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas placed a $240,000 money-line bet on heavily favored BYU to beat Texas-San Antonio straight up. The Cougars were favored by 34.5 points. To bet BYU to win outright on Saturday, the bettor had to put up $240,000 for a chance to make a $3,428.55 profit.

UTSA took an early lead and was within one possession late in the fourth quarter, but ultimately lost 27-20.

The bettor won $3,400, a 1.4% return on their investment in three days. To quote from the classic poker film “Rounders,” “Pay that man his money.”

Another way to look at such a unique bet is, “Holy bleep! They bet $240,000 to win just over $3,000. What the heck were they thinking?” It turns out, though, that giant money-line bets on large favorites aren’t that unique in Las Vegas.

“This happens way more than anyone really thinks,” Dave Sharapan, a former Las Vegas bookmaker at CG Technology sportsbooks, said of big money-line bets placed on heavy favorites.

Details regarding the BYU bet are slim. We know the what, when and where, but not the why or by whom. Only a select few know the true thinking behind risking $240,000 for a chance to win $3,400.

Some believe it has to do with reward club points for casino comps and hotel upgrades. Others suspect something more nefarious: money laundering. A customer has illicit funds and is looking to clean the money through an unsuspecting sportsbook. But that seems unlikely — or extremely dumb — says Mac Verstandig, a Las Vegas attorney who specializes in gambling cases.

“If this were a laundering effort, it would be absolutely horribly done,” Verstandig said.

In the past, when Verstandig has seen instances of suspected money-laundering efforts with sports betting, he says it normally involves a team of bettors betting both sides of games on the point spread, willing to pay the typical 10% vig to eliminate the risk of the favorite losing.

“If someone had $240,000 in somewhat illicit funds, and they had a runner that could walk into a Las Vegas sportsbook without arousing suspicion with that amount, BYU, until kickoff yesterday, seemed like an incredibly safe bet, and it gets you the return of your principle into reportable, taxable income, which is what you want from a laundering point of view,” Verstandig said. “It just sends up more red flags than a May Day parade at Tiananmen Square.”

Sportsbooks, like typical financial institutions, have to follow know-your-customer and anti-money-laundering protocols, and relationships are established with customers who place large wagers.

Sharapan didn’t know the specifics of the BYU bet. But during his years behind the sportsbook counter, he saw plenty of big money-line bets on prohibitive favorites. He’s seen customers carry cash into a sportsbook in a duffel bag to place big bets, but says most often they are handled with wire transfers to the casino cage or through a VIP host.

“Someone bet a house on BYU to win the game,” Sharapan said, “and it may never occur to that person that they could lose — until it does.”

Here is this week’s edition of Notable Bets, our look at storylines from sportsbooks around the nation.

NFL

• The Raiders’ upset of the Chiefs produced the biggest win Sunday for multiple sportsbooks. The SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas said the Raiders winning outright was one of the book’s most profitable games of the season so far. “Very high-volume game, with so many money-line parlays and teasers to the Chiefs,” John Murray, executive director for the SuperBook, told ESPN.

• More money was bet on Raiders-Chiefs than any other game Sunday at sportsbook PointsBet. It was also the most profitable game of the day for PointsBet, followed by the Giants covering the spread in a loss to the Cowboys, and the Dolphins’ upset of the 49ers.

• The Cardinals’ 30-10 rout of the winless Jets produced one of the books’ biggest losses of the day. At BetRivers sportsbooks, only 6% of the money bet on the game (point spread and money line) backed the Jets.

• Since the 2018 season, the Jets are 12-24-1 against the spread, the worst ATS mark in the NFL. They have yet to cover the spread this season.

• “[It’s] basically a struggle to take a bet on [the Jets] regardless of the number,” John Sheeran, sportsbook director for FanDuel, told ESPN.

• “Up and down” was how multiple sportsbooks described Sunday’s results. “We probably lost more games than we won with public sides like the Cardinals, Steelers, Rams, Ravens, Texans, Browns all covering,” Murray said, “but we won the really big games.”

• The sportsbook at The Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey, reported taking a $100,000 bet on the Panthers +4 for the second half of their game against the Falcons. The Panthers led 20-7 at halftime, and appeared poised to cover the spread in the second half before Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo made a 54-yard field goal with four seconds to play, making the final score 23-16.

• DraftKings reported taking a $5 bet on Steelers receiver Chase Claypool to score at least three touchdowns on Sunday, at 150-1. Claypool finished with four TDs, three receiving, and the bettor won $755.

• BetMGM said it took a $290,000 bet on the Seahawks -6.5 versus the Vikings in the Sunday night game.

Nearly 80% of the money bet on Vikings-Seahawks was on the Seahawks at PointsBet. The lopsided action on the Seahawks continued after kickoff, too — PointsBet reported early live betting on them after the Vikings jumped out to a 10-0 lead. The Seahawks won the game, but by just one point, 27-26.

• Vikings running back Dalvin Cook scored the first touchdown of the game against the Seahawks. FanDuel had boosted Cook’s odds to +750 to score the game’s first TD, a promotion that a company spokesperson said cost the sportsbook more than $1 million.

• The chances of a team being forced to forfeit a game due to a violation of league protocols on COVID-19 seem to increase each week. A forfeit, while recorded as a loss on a team’s record, would have different impacts on season win total bets, depending on the sportsbook. Here’s a couple examples of how sportsbook rules address forfeits, but check your book’s house rules:

At BetMGM, the house rules stipulate that teams must play all scheduled games for the bets in the season wins market to be honored. If a game were to be forfeited, all impacted season win market bets would be refunded.

At William Hill, a forfeited game would count as a win or a loss in terms of season win total bets.


College football

• Las Vegas sportsbook Circa Sports opened with Alabama as a 5-point favorite over Georgia in Saturday’s prime-time SEC showdown in Tuscaloosa. The line grew to Alabama -7, before settling back at -5.5 on Sunday afternoon. The total on the game had more dramatic early movement, growing from the opening number of 49.5 to 55 within the first three hours after Circa posted it.

• Florida opened as a 14-point favorite over visiting LSU. That line quickly dropped to -11 by Sunday afternoon.

• Two of the three largest college football bets FanDuel accepted on Saturday were on Florida to cover the 5.5-point spread against Texas A&M: $49,000, and $25,000 on the Gators -5.5. A&M won 41-38.


NBA

• The Lakers were favored in each of their 21 playoff games en route to winning the NBA title. According to ESPN Stats and Information, they are the fourth team in the past 30 seasons to be favored in every playoff game, followed the 2016-17 Warriors, the 2014-15 Warriors and the 1995-96 Bulls.

• The amount wagered on Sunday’s decisive Game 6 between the Lakers and Heat attracted a similar betting handle to an average NFL game at the SuperBook.

• The SuperBook said any money it won on the NFL on Sunday, it lost on its NBA title futures market. The Lakers attracted more bets and more money to win the NBA title than any other team by far at the SuperBook.

• “Hats off to the bettors on this one, they bet [the Lakers] from the beginning,” Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill U.S., told ESPN.

• The Lakers have already been installed as the favorites to win the title next season as well.


Odds and ends

• $206.8 million was bet with Indiana sportsbooks in September, the most in a month since the state authorized sports betting in the same month last year. Statewide, Indiana bookmakers finished up a net $14.2 million during the month. Bettors did get the best of the books in September at the sportsbooks at Caesars Southern Indiana (-$109,488) and Horseshoe Hammond (-$280,245). Those were the only two casinos to report a net loss on sports for the month.

Here is the breakdown by sports via the Indiana State Gaming Commission:

Football (college and pro): $48.4 million
Basketball: $34.2 million
Baseball: $30.5 million
Parlays: $50.6 million
Other: $43.1 million

• $72.4 million was bet in September with Iowa sportsbooks, who won a net $5.2 million during the month.

• A new interactive video conferencing platform centered on sports betting, BettorView Live, is prepping to launch in the U.S., showcasing betting odds, point spreads and win probabilities, and even helping place your delivery order. Think Zoom for friends wanting to watch and wager on a game together.

The BettorView Live platform, virtually toured by ESPN last week, is the result of a partnership between two tech companies, Edison Interactive (EI) and BettorView, formerly known as KonekTV. BettorView content can currently be found in 1,000 venues nationwide, and there are partnerships with restaurants and sportsbooks like Hooters and William Hill, respectively.

Ultimately, BettorView Live aims to include direct integration into sportsbook partners’ betting apps, and allow for live streaming of professional sports.

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Pogba’s United future: No Sanchez-style pay bump

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Paul Pogba’s Manchester United future is the subject of this week’s ESPN’s Insider Notebook. PLUS: Axel Tuanzebe shows captain material.

Jump to: Tuanzebe a United captain in waiting | Fabinho set for new Liverpool deal | Hazard warning for Madrid | Tuchel wanted Suarez, PSG said no | Bale’s golf course bail out | Euro League doesn’t worry elite leagues

United won’t break bank to keep Pogba

Manchester United have warned Paul Pogba they are not willing to give him a bumper pay rise to keep him at Old Trafford, sources told ESPN.

The club are keen to extend Pogba’s stay with a new long-term deal, but sources have said it will have to be a reasonable offer. After finally getting Alexis Sanchez off the books in the summer with his permanent move to Inter Milan, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are in agreement the wage structure will not be broken for any player, including Pogba.

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– Laurens: Pogba’s United troubles
– Dawson: Sanchez’s United nightmare

Sanchez still had two years left on his mammoth contract at United — worth around £400,000-a-week before bonuses — before he left and the club saved close to £40 million in wages by negotiating a deal with Inter and ending his stay early. Pogba would be given a pay rise on his £270,000-a-week deal if he signs a new contract, but intermediaries involved in preliminary talks have been clear that, despite Pogba’s high profile, Woodward and Solskjaer will not be offering extortionate wages to convince him to stay. A “Sanchez-style” contract is out of the question.

Sources said United are “relaxed” about Pogba’s future and Woodward remains open to allowing the 27-year-old to run into the final year of his deal if fresh terms cannot be agreed. United recently exercised their option to extend Pogba’s deal at the club until 2022. Based on that option the France international would be allowed to open negotiations with teams outside the Premier League from January 2022 and leave on a free the following summer.

Meanwhile, the player faces a battle to win back his place in Solskjaer’s team after being left on the bench for back-to-back victories against Newcastle and Paris Saint-Germain. Sources said Pogba hasn’t yet made a decision about where his future lies, although he has publicly courted interest from Real Madrid, saying during the international break it would be “a dream” to sign for the Spanish giants. Former club Juventus have also expressed interest in the past. — Rob Dawson

Mbappe silenced as Tuanzebe shows captain material

Axel Tuanzebe‘s impressive performance while marking Kylian Mbappe during Manchester United‘s 2-1 Champions League victory against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday was no surprise to United boss Solskjaer, who believes the 22-year-old is a future captain of the club due to his qualities on and off the pitch, sources told ESPN.

– Ogden: Mbappe silenced, Rashford a hero again

Solskjaer and his coaches have identified the need for the United squad to be more vocal and demanding of each other, and the signings this year of Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani have been made with that requirement factored in, with both players possessing the leadership qualities demanded by the manager.

But despite being restricted to fewer than 20 first-team appearances for United as a result of injury and two season-long loan spells at Aston Villa, Tuanzebe’s character and readiness to challenge his teammates has been noted by Solskjaer and senior figures at Old Trafford.

Tuanzebe captained United in the Carabao Cup win against Rochdale in September 2019, with Solskjaer handing the youngster the armband ahead of more experienced starters including Pogba, Phil Jones and Jesse Lingard.

Solskjaer justified the surprise decision at the time by saying: “It is just a way of telling Axel that we trust him,” but sources said that United’s faith in Tuanzebe runs much deeper and his leadership qualities, combined with his pace and his ability to read the game, mark him out to be a first-team regular and a player with the attributes to become captain in the long-term. — Mark Ogden

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ESPN FC’s Craig Burley says Solskjaer had the guts to make the moves that his PSG counterpart didn’t.

Fabinho set for Liverpool contract talks

Liverpool midfielder Fabinho is set for talks over a new deal after the Brazil international became a key player for Jurgen Klopp’s side, sources told ESPN.

Fabinho, 27, still has two years left on the contract he signed when he joined Liverpool from Monaco for €50m in 2018, but he has become such an important player that he is set to be rewarded with a new deal.

After joining on July 1, he didn’t make his first appearance until Sept. 18 and waited until Oct. 18 for his Premier League debut as Klopp integrated him into Liverpool’s culture and playing style. Since he secured a place in the team, though, he played a huge part in Liverpool winning the Champions League in 2019 and the Premier League in 2020.

He has become one of Europe’s best holding midfielders and his versatility makes him indispensable to Liverpool, who used him at centre-back for the 1-0 Champions League win against Ajax on Wednesday with Virgil van Dijk ruled out through injury. — Julien Laurens

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Steve Nicol believes Liverpool players need to move on and put aside Virgil van Dijk’s absence.

Hazard warning for Real Madrid over injury fears

There’s growing concern at Real Madrid over Eden Hazard‘s latest injury setback, with the €100m forward facing another longer-than-expected layoff which could see him absent until after the next international break.

Hazard was last named in a matchday squad on Sept. 30 for Madrid’s La Liga game with Real Valladolid — due to be his first appearance of the season — but he was withdrawn hours before kick off with a muscular problem in his right leg. An initial diagnosis suggested he would miss three to four weeks, but coach Zinedine Zidane admitted this week that “his injury was a bit more than we thought.”

Since then, the Belgium international had been targeting Madrid’s Champions League clash with Inter on Nov. 3 for a return, but the club would prefer to wait rather than risk another relapse. That means Hazard might not feature until the trip to Villarreal on Nov. 22, after the upcoming round of international matches.

Hazard has suffered one injury blow after another — fracturing his ankle playing against Paris Saint-Germain last November and requiring surgery after a repeat of the same injury against Levante in February — since moving to the Bernabeu from Chelsea in 2019, describing last season as “the worst of my career” and facing repeated questions from the media over his form and fitness. — Alex Kirkland and Rodrigo Faez

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Ale Moreno wonders if Eden Hazard will go down as a bad signing for Real Madrid due to injury concerns.

Tuchel wanted Suarez, PSG said no

PSG coach Thomas Tuchel wanted to sign Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger and striker Luis Suarez from Barcelona during the summer transfer window as he looked to strengthen the Champions League finalists’ squad ahead of another tilt at European glory this season.

However, sporting director Leonardo was not keen and vetoed moves for both, much to the disappointment of Tuchel.

Sources told ESPN that the pair clashed over transfers during the summer window and tensions between the pair have increased after the club were beaten 2-1 at home by Manchester United in the Champions League on Tuesday.

A couple of weeks ago, Tuchel publicly moaned about the lack of arrivals, with Leonardo responding that he must “respect the choices of the sports management” amid speculation that Mauricio Pochettino and Massimiliano Allegri are options to replace Tuchel on the PSG bench.

Sources said that the manager thinks Leonardo didn’t do enough to strengthen PSG’s squad and doesn’t understand why the sporting director was not keen on Rudiger, who would have come on loan, and Suarez, who left Barca for free, so tensions continue. — Julien Laurens

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Frank Leboeuf reacts to the latest in a public feud between PSG manager Thomas Tuchel and director Leonardo.

Bale out, bail out: Welshman’s favourite golf course needs help

Gareth Bale‘s favourite Madrid golf course has had to be bailed out of financial trouble just weeks after its most high-profile customer left for a return to the Premier League with Tottenham.

Golf fanatic Bale was a regular at the swanky Golf Santander complex, near his home to the west of Madrid, during his seven-year stay in the Spanish capital. Bale was even reported to have taken to the greens in August while his then-Real Madrid teammates were preparing for a must-win Champions League knockout tie with Manchester City, after refusing to travel.

The 18-hole course in upmarket Boadilla del Monte was designed by the legendary, late Seve Ballesteros — winner of five majors — and has consistently been named one of Europe’s best.

Now its backer, Banco Santander, has approved a €9.1m capital reduction to compensate for losses caused by significant recent investment in the facilities, as well as 2020’s drop in international tourism.

A spokesman for the bank told ESPN the move was a “mere accounting adjustment” in the company that runs the course alongside its other sporting centres used by employees and the public. — Alex Kirkland and Rodrigo Faez

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Mark Ogden believes talks of a European Premier League are far too optimistic to be true at the moment.

Top leagues not troubled by European Premier League talk

UEFA, along with most leagues and clubs, were caught by surprise when news of a $6 billion (£4.6 billion) European Premier League broke on Wednesday, but sources told ESPN there is little concern among leagues about it. Instead, they see this as a unique opportunity to reshape the global football calendar.

The format of the Champions League for the 2024-27 cycle must be decided next year, with the biggest clubs wanting a larger slice of the financial riches, and to play more games against their top rivals from other leagues.

– Marcotti: How a Super League could happen

UEFA, which stands to lose most from a breakaway if its marquee clubs form a new competition, has condemned the idea of any kind Super League, calling it “boring.” But sources say it is aware that investment firms are circling around football as a relatively safe bet to recover from the coronavirus crisis. In Italy, Serie A is being heavily targeted by CVC Capital Partners and Advent International, who are working together to take a stake in the league’s commercial rights.

While the top clubs may be attracted to go their own way with the promise of a large payday, sources said the top leagues are confident a solution will be found that suits the game as a whole, and that any breakaway would jeopardise plans to find a wider solution.

With FIFA’s international match calendar due for renewal in 2024, along with the Champions League, there may not be another chance to reshape how club and international football fits together for many years.

Sources said that the World Leagues Forum, which represents 41 of the leading leagues around the world, has been in regular dialogue with FIFA and UEFA to discuss the calendar. Talks continue to find a solution for all, but they have not involved any breakaway from UEFA competition from the top clubs. — Dale Johnson

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Report: USC bans WR amid possible fraud probe

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A USC Trojans football player was suspended last month by the school in connection to a possible federal investigation into fraud related to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.

Sophomore wide receiver Munir McClain has been suspended since mid-September, his mother, Shan McClain told the Times. But she said the school has not given her or her son a clear reason for the suspension. Michael Blanton, USC’s vice president of ethics and professionalism, told Shan that Munir’s name surfaced in relation to a complaint that had been filed involving USC students and a plan to apply for Employment Development Department benefits, the Times reported.

Munir acknowledged he applied for financial relief from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program but was under the impression he qualified because his source of income — reselling high-end shoes — had dried up during the pandemic, the Times reported. A lawyer representing the McClain family told the Times they planned to challenge the suspension.

“We are cooperating with the authorities,” USC said in a statement. “We understand there may be many questions and concerns, but we are unable to discuss this matter because of our obligation to protect students’ privacy.”

Earlier this week, federal agents visited Munir’s dorm looking for his older brother and roommate, redshirt sophomore linebacker Abdul-Malik McClain, the Times reported. He wasn’t home, so an agent left behind a card that identified her as a special agent with the U.S. Department of Labor-Office of Inspector General and Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.

The Times reported that other USC football players have recently received similar visits from federal agents inquiring about Munir McClain.

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Trojans WR to appeal suspension, lawyer says

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A USC Trojans football player was suspended last month by the school in connection to a possible federal investigation into fraud related to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.

Sophomore receiver Munir McClain has been suspended since mid-September, his mother, Shan McClain told the Times. But she said the school has not given her nor her son a clear reason for the suspension. Michael Blanton, USC’s vice president of ethics and professionalism, told Shan that Munir’s name surfaced in relation to a complaint that had been filed involving USC students and a plan to apply for Employment Development Department benefits, the Times reported.

Munir acknowledged he applied for financial relief from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program but was under the impression he qualified because his source of income — reselling high-end shoes — had dried up during the pandemic, the Times reported. A lawyer representing the McClain family told the Times they planned to challenge the suspension.

“We are cooperating with the authorities,” USC said in a statement. “We understand there may be many questions and concerns, but we are unable to discuss this matter because of our obligation to protect students’ privacy.”

Earlier this week, federal agents visited Munir’s dorm looking for his older brother and roommate, redshirt sophomore linebacker Abdul-Malik McClain, the Times reported. He wasn’t home, so an agent left behind a card that identified her as a special agent with the U.S. Department of Labor-Office of Inspector General and Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.

The Times reported other USC football players have recently received similar visits from federal agents inquiring about Munir McClain.

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