Updated July 3, 2020 - 9:59 am
The nearly quarter-million dollars in winning wagers reportedly placed at MGM Resorts early Sunday might be the largest sportsbook loss in Las Vegas history on bets made after an event has started.
Seven longtime Las Vegas bookmakers can’t recall a larger loss. But each oddsmaker has taken hits on past posts and said it’s a fairly common occurrence at books.
“It’s happened to all of us,” Westgate sportsbook director John Murray said. “I think every sportsbook probably since the beginning of time has dealt with this at some point.
“We’ve had past post situations where our employees put in the wrong time or put in the wrong number or they forgot to close something. It’s manual entry and humans are going to make mistakes.”
Sunday’s bets were allowed to be placed because incorrect start times were posted on some Korean and Chinese baseball games due to a manual entry error, according to an ESPN report.
Nearly all of the approximately 50 wagers were placed on self-serve kiosks at the Bellagio between 1:30 and 3 a.m. when the games in question started at 1 and 2 a.m.
Among the bets was a $250 10-leg parlay that paid $137,107.38.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board is reportedly investigating the matter. Anytime there is a dispute in excess of $500, the state’s books are required to contact the GCB, which conducts an investigation and makes a ruling the books must abide by.
‘Lit up on halftimes’
Robert Walker, USBookmaking director of sportsbook operations, is still haunted by getting past-posted during his tenure as MGM Resorts sportsbook director from 1996-2008.
“I still haven’t gotten over some mistakes I made at The Mirage 20 years ago,” he said. “There’s no worse feeling than when you see a bet come across on a game that’s already started.
“I got lit up on some halftimes before. If you don’t manually close out the halftime line, they keep betting it and that’s what they did.”
Walker said a college football bettor once placed a $3,000 halftime wager on Louisiana State late in the fourth quarter, when the bet couldn’t lose.
“Once I saw that bet come across the ticker in the fourth quarter, I was mortified,” he said.
The sportsbook locked out the ticket from cashing while Walker went to the MGM Grand to explain his mistake to the bettor.
“He gave me the story that they didn’t know and they were LSU fans. But yet you’re watching the game,” he said. “But it was 100 percent my fault. They were guests of the casino, so at that point I sided with them and it was a mistake we had to eat.”
The kicker came after Walker told the bettor he’d cash his $3,000 ticket.
“He said, ‘That’s great and, by the way, my brother also has a ticket,’ ” he said. “I think it was for $1,000. So I had to pay his brother, too.”
Walker said time changes on games are where books can get in trouble.
“Especially in college basketball when you’re doing so many games,” he said. “The game’s supposed to start at 11 and it starts at 9.
“That’s one reason I’m so reluctant to put up these odd sports like pingpong. You know when an NFL game starts, but I have no idea when these (table tennis matches) are going on.”
Other sportsbook executives said dealing with bets on sports in foreign countries is especially challenging because of different time zones and days.
“We rely on second parties and third parties to get us that information,” Walker said.
Another sportsbook dealt with the wrong time during an NCAA Tournament prop bet about whether the No. 16 seed would ever lead in its game. When that team scored first, everybody rushed to the counter to bet it.
When the book realized its error, it gave the past-post bettors a choice that several bookmakers said is common practice: keep the winnings and get permanently banned from the casino or return the money and remain welcome.
Everybody returned the winnings. But in that instance, most bettors stood to win only $20 or $50, not six figures.
It’s unclear what the GCB will rule in the MGM case. But the board has sided with bettors on numerous occasions.
“We had gaming come out several times,” Walker said. “We got ruled against most of the time.”
It wasn’t a past-post situation, but in 2018 a mistake led FanDuel sportsbook in New Jersey to pay out more than $164,000 to bettors.
The book agreed to pay a New Jersey bettor his full $82,000 payout on a disputed $110 live wager at 750-1 odds placed on the Broncos to beat the Raiders as Denver moved into position for a winning 36-yard field goal with six seconds left.
FanDuel initially refused to pay the wager, claiming the long odds were caused by a computer glitch in its automated system. But after meeting with state gaming regulators, the book paid in full 12 bettors who placed 750-1 wagers. It also gave away another $82,000 in a promotion by adding $1,000 each to the accounts of 82 randomly chosen bettors.
House rules at most Nevada books state that the customer and book will be protected “in case of an obvious computer, mechanical, technical or human error.”
However, another longstanding Las Vegas rule is that “tickets go as written,” meaning once bettors leave the window or have their wagers confirmed on their mobile app, they’re in action.
“To me, this would qualify as an obvious mistake,” Walker said. “The problem is, ‘What is the definition of obvious?’”