Home Run Derby could be special with spread of legalized sports betting

July 7, 2019 11:23 PM

Monday night’s Home Run Derby (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET) might provide a glimpse into the future of nationally legalized sports betting.

Its format is ideal for an evening of entertainment. It’s already a popular TV event for baseball fans. Wouldn’t it be even more fun if viewers could place bets on their favorite choices?

Las Vegas sportsbooks have been offering this event for years to a niche audience. But Vegas isn’t an MLB city. As sports betting becomes legalized throughout the nation, imagine the handle when fans in Pittsburgh could bet Josh Bell, fans in New York could bet Pete Alonso and even long-time fans of Vladimir Guerrero Sr. across the map could bet on Jr. for nostalgia’s sake. 

The problem with betting special events is that, while winning does make it more fun, losing turns what would have been fun into frustration. If your guy costs you $100 because he keeps popping the ball up, you’ll yell at the TV for a few minutes and not really care who wins later on.

Other issues: It’s hard to guess the right guy in an evenly matched event…and if you DO pick the winner, you probably won’t be getting “true” odds as a reward.

If all eight entries were exactly matched, each would be priced at 7/1 (one chance in eight), which is the same as plus 700 on the money line (risk $100 to win $700, or anything in that ratio). In percentage terms, each would have a 12.5% chance of winning. Eight of those adds up to 100%.

Here were common odds this past weekend at legal betting sites (you’ll likely see adjustments on gameday once more money hit the board):

Favorites: Josh Bell plus 350 (22%), Vlad Guerrero Jr. plus 450 (18%), Pete Alonso plus 500 (17%), Joc Pederson plus 500 (16%).

Longer shots: Carlos Santana plus 700 (13%), Alex Bregman plus 800 (11%), Matt Chapman plus 800 (11%), Ronald Acuna Jr. plus 1000 (9%).

If you’re good at addition, you’ll have noticed that the percentage chances add up to 117%. Sports books build a universe larger than 100% to create their house edge. That waters down your payoff when you win.

Time will tell which “special” sporting events generate the most betting interest.

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