The operator opted to prematurely reward those who’d previously bet on “the Beard” to win the 2018-19 NBA MVP award. The announcement of the early payout came shortly after yet another eye-popping stat line by Harden in an interconference battle versus the Boston Celtics:
🚨NBA MVP EARLY PAYOUT ALERT🚨
We've seen enough here at PointsBet HQ. That stepback over Kyrie & Tatum was from a 2 Time MVP Winner…
— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) March 3, 2019
Harden racked up 42 points over 39 minutes in an on-the-road win versus Boston. That pushed his season averages to 36.7 points, 7.6 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals over 59 games. The scoring and steal averages both represent career highs.
Among the many highlights of his jaw-dropping campaign is a just-snapped 32-game streak of 30-point efforts. That ranks as the second-longest such stretch in league history.
In other words, the payout seems a reasonably safe proposition at the moment. But, it’s not as if Harden is without competition.
The Thunder’s Paul George likely represents the biggest threat to PointsBet potentially taking a bath on the decision. Like Harden, PG13 is also enjoying a career season. Despite sharing the floor with a former MVP in Russell Westbrook, George leads OKC with a career-best 28.6 points and is notably outpacing Harden in rebounds (8.1) and steals (2.3).
The Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, the aptly nicknamed “Greek Freak,” is likely the only other relatively serious challenger for the MVP crown. He’s behind both with an average of 27.6 points per game. However, his average of 12.6 rebounds is easily the highest of the trio.
Accordingly, PointsBet currently lists the three, in that order, in terms of current MVP odds:
- Harden: -125
- George: -110
- Giannis: +900
PointsBet’s move comes on heels of FanDuel’s early payout
PointsBet’s move is newsworthy, but not unprecedented, in the New Jersey market it recently entered.
On Dec. 1, FanDuel Sportsbook became the first legal operator in the United States to engage in an early payout. It was one it ultimately wouldn’t have had to make, had it stayed put.
On that date, FanDuel Sportsbook cashed out all customers who’d placed futures bets before Nov. 30 on the Alabama Crimson Tide winning a third national championship in four years.
At the time, the Tide seemingly had a leg up on the handful of potential candidates for the mantle of college football’s top team after another perfect 12-0, regular-season mark. The listed odds (at the time of FanDuel’s decision) of -280 reflected as much.
Of course, the best-laid plans of mice and men (and sportsbooks) and all that good stuff.
The Clemson Tigers ultimately handed Nick Saban‘s crew a 44-16 shellacking in the national championship game on Jan. 7.
Ultimately, FanDuel paid out $40,000 on the early bets and an additional $42,000 on winning wagers involving the Tigers. And it’s worth noting the former figure doesn’t include parlay bets including an Alabama win that didn’t close out until after the date of the game.
PointsBet strives to stand out in a crowded field
The Harden payout is the second significant ripple in the NJ sports betting pond that Australia-based PointsBet has made recently.
In the latter portion of February, the operator announced a marketing-focused partnership with Topgolf in the state that will mostly be centered around major sporting events. The most imminent example of such is a March Madness-themed Hole in One competition that will unfold at the Topgolf’s Edison and Mount Laurel locations.
It will feature a $25,000 grand prize to be awarded March 23.
Like FanDuel, PointsBet surely feels reasonably confident that the money it just shelled out was leaving its coffers later this year anyhow.
And if the “never say never” scenario plays out and say that George takes home the MVP in an upset? PointsBet is undoubtedly banking on the goodwill and promotional benefits of its move making it worthwhile over the long term in an increasingly competitive New Jersey market.