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Looking back at four years since PASPA: Jan. 9, sports betting’s almost doomsday

by David Purdum, ESPN Chalk

The sports betting evolution in America began on May 14, 2018, when a landmark decision from the United States Supreme Court changed everything.

Four years later, Americans have bet more than $125 billion according to the Associated Press and legal sportsbooks now operate in 30 states and the District of Columbia. Betting advertising is everywhere, and some stadiums even have sportsbooks. Once-stingy bookmakers are handing out sign-up bonuses worth thousands of dollars, as they fight for a share of what’s expected to mature into the largest sports wagering market in the world.

In the first quarter of 2022, a record $26.3 billion was bet with U.S. sportsbooks, generating $1.58 billion in revenue, according to the American Gaming Association. But there’s an underlying concern about what the U.S. betting market has become. Bookmakers fear the massive, complex betting menus with modern offerings like same-game parlays leave them vulnerable to a potential doomsday.

“I think potentially there is a black swan event, where everything clicks,” Karol Corcoran, general manager of FanDuel’s online sportsbook, said, adding that such an event could be “existential” for smaller operators. “Yes, it could happen, and the chances of it happening are the same every day.”

It nearly did on Jan. 9, 2022.

A wild night in American sports betting

The night of Jan. 9, 2022 will not only go down as one of the wildest in American gambling history, but also as a warning of what sports betting has evolved into — a 24/7 high-stakes battle between cutthroat bettors and paranoid bookmakers who fear an unavoidable black swan event, like the one that almost occurred that memorable Sunday, will someday rattle the industry.

It was Week 18 of the NFL season. An epic upset Sunday afternoon had turned the final game of the day between the Chargers and Raiders into the biggest decision of the season for sportsbooks. Shortly after the NFL primetime game kicked off, though, bookmakers were forced to fend off another threat from bettors, who were reacting to late-breaking news in the NBA.


That call to action was posted by an ex-radio DJ in Indianapolis at 8:35 p.m. on Jan. 9 in a private online sports betting community called Marcus & Beau VIP.

Bettors had just minutes to capitalize. Their quest: Bet as much as possible at the longest odds available on the under on Draymond Green‘s points, rebounds and assists before the Warriors and Cavaliers tipped off at 8:40 p.m.

At 8:31 p.m., the Warriors’ PR team tweeted that Green would be on the court for the opening tip to honor the return of Klay Thompson, but would not participate in the remainder of the game due to left calf tightness. At 8:32, NBA insider Shams Charania amplified the news to his one million-plus Twitter followers. The news traveled quickly in the betting community on popular online forums like MoonshotHQ, Establish the Run and Marcus & Beau VIP. Sportsbooks all the way in Australia felt the effects.

“It speaks to just the speed of how quickly information travels,” Corcoran said. “It’s like lightning.”

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