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Ouch! Bellagio’s Mistake is Gambler’s Gain

Ouch! Bellagio’s Mistake is Gambler’s Gain
The Bellagio - Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

Mistakes happen – it is inevitable. It just not common that a simple, avoidable one would cost a company a quarter of a million dollars. But that’s what happened to MGM Resorts International, the Bellagio wing more specifically, with regard to bets paid out on Chinese and Korean professional baseball games last Sunday. On the subject of Asian baseball, SBR proudly offers daily Korean Baseball Organization and Nippon Professional Baseball coverage through video and picks articles.

In what is described as perhaps the largest sportsbook loss in Las Vegas history, MGM Resorts posted correct odds for the games but posted the wrong starting time, and ultimately paid out nearly $250,000 in bets made after the games had already started. Those bets are referred to as “past-post” wagers.

Seasoned bookmakers in Las Vegas can’t recall a bigger loss due to such a blunder although those same bookies acknowledge that mistakes on a smaller scale are more common than most would think. Sometimes it is human error and other times a typo leads to incorrect information being posted by sportsbooks.

Manual entry errors have happened before in sports betting but generally, the mistake is corrected after two or three bettors get away with the wrong information.

A deeper dive

A total of about 50 bets on Korean and Chinese baseball games were placed at self-serve kiosks at the Bellagio Sunday on four games that were already in progress. It is not clear how many bettors were involved in placing those 50 bets. All were paid out despite incorrect start times being posted on those games.

ESPN was the first to report on the bets that were still allowed, even though a manual entry error led to the inaccurate start times of the games betting posted. The games started at 1 AM and 2 AM Vegas time and the bets in question took place between 1:30 AM and 3 AM local time. International time zones can make posting odds tricky but it certainly isn’t unreasonable for those in charge to get the starting times for games right.

“A trading error was identified this weekend and addressed. We’re working with Nevada Gaming authorities on this matter,” according to a ROAR Digital statement provided to ESPN.

One of the bets, a $250 wager paid out $137,100 on a 10-leg parlay that looks on the surface as though it was aided by advance knowledge of what was going on in the games in question.

“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.”

Can anything be done?

An investigation into the mistake and ultimate payout is said to be in question. Under Nevada Gaming Control Board rules, anytime a dispute arises for a bet over $500, the affected sportsbook is mandated to contact the Board, which investigates and makes a binding decision after all of the evidence is presented.

But according to Regulation 22.115, Nevada Gaming has a “prohibition against rescission of wagers. A book may not unilaterally rescind any wager without the prior written approval of the Chair.”

Some sportsbooks simply offer a refund on the tickets after admitting their error. Most bettors acknowledge that mistakes happen and accept the refund. Those who don’t can collect on their winnings but risk being banned from the sportsbook in question.

It is unclear if the Bellagio will be able to recoup the losses. It is more likely that the book will have to admit culpability and write the loss off. Robert Walker, USBookmaking director of sportsbook operations weighed in on the matter saying “We had [the Gaming Control Board] come out several times…We got ruled against most of the time.”

Any advantage

Bettors will take any advantage possible in their quest for a winning bet. The winners this time were on the ball in identifying and seizing upon the obvious gaffe. The investigation into the winnings by The Nevada Gaming Control Board will be interesting indeed but might not turn up any nefarious behavior.

It is likely just the “cost of doing business” for the Las Vegas casino. Unfortunately for the Bellagio, that cost came at a time of extremely low revenues and at a time that losses definitely could not be afforded.