A U.S. bookmaker lost more than $1 million Thursday night, when Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani was named American League MVP.
On March 19, a bettor in Nevada placed a $30,000 on Ohtani to win MVP at 30-1 odds with Caesars Sportsbook (then William Hill). Ohtani was named the unanimous winner Thursday, and Caesars suffered an overall seven-figure loss on an awards market that typically doesn’t attract a ton of money.
Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, told ESPN that it was the biggest loss that the bookmaker ever experienced on an awards market.
“It’s going to stick an out as a line item, when you see award betting and a big minus,” Pullen said.
Ohtani opened at 60-1 to win MVP in February and attracted immediate betting interest. There were more bets on Ohtani than there were on any other player at most sportsbooks, and it didn’t take long for him to emerge as the consensus MVP favorite.
By late June, Ohtani was an odds-on favorite to win the award at DraftKings, and by August, he was listed at -5,000 at BetMGM, meaning one would need to bet $5,000 to win $100. According to BetMGM, a bettor this summer placed a $204,149 bet on Ohtani to win the MVP at -5,000 odds. The bet paid a net $4,083 with Ohtani’s win.
Ohtani hit 46 home runs with 100 RBIs and also went 9-2 with 156 strikeouts as a starting pitcher.
Nevada sportsbooks were prohibited from accepting bets on anything decided by a vote until 2015. The Heisman Trophy was the first awards market allowed by Nevada Gaming Control, and betting on MLB awards like MVP, Rookie of the Year and Cy Young were approved the following year.
The betting interest in the awards markets has grown, and it’s been a challenge for bookmakers to manage the risk.
“The general public bets these things game to game. That’s probably the best way I can describe it,” said Randy Blum, a risk manager for the SuperBook in Las Vegas. “If a guy goes 4-for-4 with three homers, even if he’s hitting .210, he’s all of a sudden MVP.”
Blum said the SuperBook is facing a “low five-figure” liability on Ohtani winning the MVP, primarily because of some early interest from sharp bettors who grabbed him early at 30-1. Blum added that he wouldn’t change anything to the way he booked the AL MVP market, though.
“We just never expected him to be that type of hitter,” Blum said.
Pullen also was comfortable with how they booked the market, despite the massive loss on Ohtani.
“[We] don’t want to lose, but you got to applaud the bettor’s moxie for putting that big of bet on it,” Pullen said. “It’ll definitely be a first, and we will move on and be open the next day.”