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.
Australian sports betting company PointsBet debuted the ninth online sportsbook in New Jersey on Jan. 17. Needless to say, PointsBet CEO Johnny Aitken sounded pretty happy about it when he spoke with TheLines.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “It’s exciting just to take bets.”
Aitken said the PointsBet app is the fourth most downloaded of all New Jersey sports betting apps. In just a week, the application is already closing in on the iTunes Store‘s Top 100 sports apps.
PointsBet is not a standard sportsbook
Naturally, people are interested in new things. However, in the crowded New Jersey market, a garden-variety sportsbook might struggle to stand out after the initial interest.
Thankfully, PointsBet comes with its unique product. Its signature game, points betting, rewards players based upon the magnitude of the final margin of victory.
So, a player will win or lose a multiple of his or her stake in a points bet. The distance from the given line or total acts as a multiplier on the bettor’s stake.
After the game, the final score is 36-28. Since the margin is only eight points, the player would lose $20, since he was wrong about the outcome by two points.
Conversely, let’s say the final score happened to be 40-28. In that case, the player would win $20, since he was correct about the outcome by two points.
Points betting has a learning curve, but it’s worth it
Needless to say, the concept of points betting is a new one to American sports bettors. Aitken acknowledged that getting players up to speed is one of the company’s goals.
“It’s an education piece — even more so in America (than Australia),” he said. “It’s a unique product. There is this sort of learning curve to it, so that’s a challenge for us moving forward.”
Nevertheless, Aitken felt confident that the product would quickly become a favorite for many players. The nature of the game promotes an environment that is both high-risk and high-reward.
Aitken mentioned that some professional bettors had already tried the signature product. He said they reported that it made their hearts pound for the first time in decades.
So, the appeal of such a game is clear. There is no such thing as garbage time with points betting. Even the beginning of the game warrants attention for players who have a points bet going.
“Everything matters,” Aitken said. “It elevates the watching experience.”
Aitken wants to shake things up in New Jersey
This elevation of the moment is symbolic of Aitken’s overall vision for the company. He wants a company that is both aggressive and anti-establishment. That attitude is part of the reason that one of PointsBet’s new ambassadors is NBA great Allen Iverson.
“(Iverson) embodies what PointsBet is all about,” Aitken said. “Going after the establishment. A slick, modern brand. Swagger.”
Aitken’s ethos is also why the company stood alone offering refunds to Saints bettors after the controversial NFC Championship Game. In fact, he said that PointsBet would continue to look for those opportunities to extend goodwill toward their clients:
“We (want) to be seen as the bookmaker that has the client’s back. I believe it will set us up for the long-term.”
You’ve surely seen it by now. As the New Orleans Saints vs. Los Angeles Rams NFC Championship game was coming to a frenetic close, Drew Brees threw a pass down the sideline intended for receiver Tommylee Lewis. Lewis was basically assaulted while the ball was in the air by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. It was as clear of a pass interference infraction as you’ll see—except the refs didn’t see it. The non-call likely cost the Saints the game and a trip to the Super Bowl.
It also cost many bettors a win and payout.
Unless you wagered on PointsBet.
JUST IN: @PointsBetUSA, the latest entrant in the NJ mobile betting market, has announced it will refund all wagers on New Orleans Saints spreads & money lines due to the highly controversial non-call (H/T @TheBigLeebowski)
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) January 21, 2019
PointsBet announced a “Good Karma Payout” program after the blown call. The company “will refund all wagers as bonus bets on New Orleans Saints spreads and money lines due to the highly controversial pass interference inside the final two minutes of the game.”
The announcement has been met with equal parts enthusiasm and skepticism. The skeptics will note that the new market entrant likely had minimal handle and exposure, so they stood more to gain off the free press than what little they lost in refunds (fair point by the way, we’re covering it).
From a broader business standpoint, this opens a can of worms not just for PointsBet (and FanDuel, which already refunded Bears bettors after a missed field goal), but other operators. It’s a slippery slope. What qualifies for or are the parameters of a game-altering call? What happens to PointsBet the next time a “bad” call happens and they don’t want to refund wagers? Will they get as much backlash from that as goodwill from this?
The bottom line is this: part of the contract between a bettor and operator is the general understanding that shit happens. Refs will miss calls. Players will get hurt. It’s why they call it sports gambling. There’s risk. We all know that.
New Jersey is a cut-throat and competitive sports betting market. Pennsylvania will soon be as well. Just wait until New York and California launch. Anything to cut through the clutter could be seen as a positive, sure. But cutting through the clutter at the expense of the integrity of a wager or the poor precedence of resetting public expectation is not a good thing.
These types of publicity stunts seldom work long-term and set a poor expectation for the public. Whatever short-term positive bump PointsBet gets, they’ll lose the next time they decide something wasn’t worthy of a refund.
But hey, they got a Darren Rovell tweet out of it, so high-fives all around.