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Golden Knights blasted for partnership with sports betting tout service

Updated February 26, 2021 - 9:08 pm

The Golden Knights’ new partnership with a sports betting tout service has been universally panned by the sports betting industry and the team’s fans on social media.

The NHL organization announced Wednesday that it has entered a multiyear partnership with UpickTrade.com, a site based in Guadalajara, Mexico, that sells picks and has been designated the Official Sports Pick Service Partner of the Knights.

“We are thrilled to partner with UpickTrade.com and become the first professional sports franchise to partner with a sports recommendation service,” Mike Mungiello, the Knights’ vice president of global partnerships, said in a news release. “We are hopeful our fan base will make UpickTrade.com a part of their sports pick betting process.”

As an official partner of the Knights, UpickTrade will be featured on the team’s web and social media platforms, as well as on the boards around the rink at T-Mobile Arena.

UpickTrade CEO Carlos Lazo Reyes described the deal as “a historic moment in the sports betting market.”

But judging by the overwhelmingly negative reaction to the deal on the Knights’ Twitter page — all 137 replies were critical — the market hopes that history won’t be repeated.

“At first I thought it was a joke. Then I read the Knights’ press release. And I still wasn’t sure because it just seemed so outlandish,” said USBookmaking sportsbook director Robert Walker, former MGM Mirage (now MGM Resorts) sportsbook director. “My first thought was someone from the Vegas Knights is going to get canned, and my next thought was did the NHL approve of this. All of it is beyond shocking to me. This puts an end to the league’s integrity claims.”

Phone calls and texts to Knights president Kerry Bubolz seeking comment on the partnership weren’t returned.

“At this time, the organization does not have any additional comments beyond what was included in the press release,” Knights vice president of communications Eric Tosi said in an email.

In 2018, the Knights became the first NHL team to partner with a sportsbook when it entered a mulityear deal with William Hill. All four major American pro sports leagues and several other teams have partnerships with legal, regulated casinos and books.

But tout services have long had an infamous reputation.

“The obvious issue is the unscrupulous nature of the tout business itself,” Walker said. “Some, not all, lie or mislead about their success rates, etc. It is not a business a sportsbook would want to be in bed with. It is a thousand times worse for a sports team to be associated with one, less sponsoring one.

“I never in my wildest imagination believed we would be talking about a team from a major sport sponsoring a tout service. So wrong on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to start.”

UpickTrade was launched in 2017, and Reyes claims on the front page of the site that more than 6,000 clients worldwide “are now making a living off of sports.” The service, which charges $89 a month for its picks, claims annual returns on investment ranging from +28.56 percent to +687.24 percent.

On Wednesday, the Knights’ logo was featured on the image of a player on the site. On Thursday, the logo was removed. But it was back on the site Friday night.

UNLV gaming historian David Schwartz said he was surprised by the partnership.

“It’s definitely a curious choice,” he said. “Those sorts of services have traditionally been stigmatized. It’s difficult to see how that would promote an image of integrity.

“Let’s say they tell people to bet against the Knights, and the Knights lose. It’s just not clear how that would work. I don’t understand why the decision was made in the first place.”

Attempts to reach Reyes were unsuccessful. But, according to ESPN, he said the deal doesn’t preclude the service from selling picks on Knights games and that the company won’t receive injury or lineup information from the team.

“It’s a no-win situation,” Golden Nugget sportsbook director Aaron Kessler said. “If you believe the tout service is legit, it looks biased and shady. If you realize it’s a bunch of scammers, then they’re partnering with a bunch of scammers. The optics are terrible.

“I can’t imagine what the guy who thought this was a good idea could possibly be thinking. There’s zero benefit to this deal, and any money they’re getting is going to be outweighed by how unbelievably bad it makes the team look.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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