The Showtime cable network announced a new docu-series set to debut March 24. It chronicles the lives and betting of several sports bettors, bookies, and oddsmakers throughout the 2018-19 NFL season.
The show, titled “Action,” has made some news this week not just as a spotlight on the industry, but for a controversial figure highlighted in the series.
The show follows players through the ups and downs of the season, culminating with Super Bowl Sunday. The network says the “character-driven narrative delivers intimate access to a diverse cross-section of authentic and sometimes garrulous subjects within the sports gaming community, documenting the effects of legalization through their prisms.”
“Action” plays out in four parts and explores the changing face of the industry since last May’s Supreme Court ruling.
“The world of sports gambling has fascinated Hollywood for decades, but never before has a documentary captured the essence of the industry at such a pivotal period,” Showtime Sports and Event Programming President Stephen Espinoza said. “Through the lens of industry professionals and real-life gamblers within every virtual layer of the business – both legal and illegal – ‘Action’ delivers a one-of-a-kind look as sports gambling enters a brave new world.”
Controversial figures and criticism
Almost immediately after plans for the new show were released, many in the sports betting industry reacted negatively to some of the figures involved.
One of those is David “Vegas Dave” Oancea, who pled guilty in federal court in January for charges involving using phony Social Security numbers at Las Vegas casinos in transactions of more than $1.2 million. Oancea initially faced 19 felonies, but ultimately pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge by admitting to causing violations of record keeping and procedures.
The fake Social Security numbers used by properties such as Wynn and Westgate, caused casinos to file false federal currency transaction reports. As part of his plea deal, Oancea also agreed to forfeit $550,000.
Oancea claims to have won millions of dollars and runs a tout service offering his picks with several packages available beginning at $199. On his Twitter feed, Oancea describes himself as the “No. 1 sports information consultant as seen on ESPN, Fox Sports, Yahoo Sports, USA Today and Forbes.”
Others in the industry quickly accused the series of hyping bettors and handicappers involved with suspect tout services.
Chronicling an industry
Producers are hoping viewers give the show a shot and note that there are other interesting characters featured in the show. Those include professional gambler Bill Krackomberger and sports handicapper Kelly Stewart. Krackomberger, a longtime Vegas handicapper, seems ready to distance himself a bit from the inclusion of “Vegas Dave” in the show.
“I can tell you I did not film a single scene with VD [Vegas Dave] nor was I even told who was even in the show (besides Kelly) until last week,” he noted Tuesday via Twitter. “Kelly and I had zero clue he was in this show until last week.”
“Action” becomes the latest in a growing number of media offerings and content related to sports betting as the industry grows at a rapid pace. An estimated $400-$500 billion is wagered annually on sports gambling in the U.S., and that is expected to grow. Beyond legal wagering, the show also delves into illegal wagering.
Along with professional gamblers, the show also features Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, sports broadcasting icon Brent Musburger, and comedian Cousin Sal. While some bettors and handicappers may not be pleased with publicizing some of the negative sides to sports wagering, producers are hoping viewers give the series a chance as they try to show a season from all angles.
“The chorus of human stories we present in ‘Action’ will resonate far beyond the world of sports and gambling,” director Luke Korem says. “This is a subculture that reflects to an extreme the risk, reward, and uncertainty we find in our everyday lives. I’m thrilled that Showtime is allowing us to capture these stories at such a unique moment in history.”