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How a ‘Woj bomb’ blew up the NBA draft lines and cost bettors

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For an NBA draft that lacked a clear top pick, some clarity came Thursday morning, roughly 12 hours before the first pick was made, with a tweet from the NBA’s top breaking news reporter. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

“As team meetings wrap up today, the 1-2-3 in the NBA Draft is getting tighter, according to sources: Jabari Smith to Orlando, Chet Holmgren to Oklahoma City and Paolo Banchero to Houston.” Wojnarowski wrote.

Because of Wojnarowski’s status (he has 5 million Twitter followers and has made gold nuggets his calling card), the gaming universe took notice. Smith went from +200 to -800, making him the favorite to be No. 1. Meanwhile, Banchero’s odds plummeted. He went from the expected first pick, at -800, to +600. Those were huge changes: a -800 line means you have to bet $800 to win $100; +600 means you win $600 for betting $100.

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But by draft time, Wojnarowski’s reporting had changed.

A few minutes before the first selection was made, Wojnarowski reported on television that Banchero was again the favourite. And he tweeted: “As the Orlando Magic ticks down to the clock, Duke’s Paolo Banchero is now shaping up to be one of the top candidates to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, sources told The Associated Press. ESPN”.

Banchero fell back to -800 and was selected first. What exactly happened remained a mystery. a theory suggested there was a key phone call between Banchero and the Magic; another was that Orlando hoped to trade some picks while still getting their chosen player. But what was clear was that people were listening to Wojnarowski. At Bet Rivers, more money was bet on Smith than Banchero to be the first pick in the draft, even with Banchero being the favorite before Wojnarowski’s morning tweet and ultimately being picked first.

The way the lines moved reinforced Wojnarowski’s ability to dramatically shape them and influence whether bettors who stick to their scoops win or lose money. In this case, they lost.

And unlike other potential line-moving events that “insider” reporters routinely find out about before the betting public (injuries are the most common), people within an organization know and control who is selected in the draft. Those are the same people who could be providing information to reporters, even as punters place bets on the action. Someone, in theory, could give a reporter like Wojnarowski a bad lead and then capitalize on the odds. Or a reporter himself could capitalize.

Sports betting is now legal and available in 30 states, and ESPN employees have posted their winnings on the bets. Many sports media companies, including ESPN, are now in the sports book business. But as newsgathering organizations, they have also tried to create policies for their reporters. An ESPN spokesman said the company updated its employee gambling policy in October.

“Employees may not use, disclose, or provide access to confidential information learned in the course of their employment for any gambling-related activity,” the policy states. The guidelines define sensitive information as any non-public information to which a reporter may be exposed as part of their job and “may relate to our Company, programming, reports, business activities, league or other partners.”

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Other outlets have adopted stricter guidelines. The Athletic, which was acquired by the New York Times this year, does not allow reporters to bet on the sport they cover.

“Staff members are prohibited from betting on the leagues (eg NFL, NBA, EPL) they cover and from using information obtained through work or relationships developed through their work with The Athletic to bet on other sports” , He says. The policy, which staff said was implemented this month, specifically noted that reporters working in the Athletic’s betting vertical can bet. The Times has a similar policy, prohibiting sports reporters from betting on the sports they cover and allowing “recreational betting on sports they don’t cover, depending on the laws where they live.”

The Washington Post doesn’t have a written policy, sports editor Matt Vita said, but “we have a longstanding agreement with our reporters that they can’t bet on any sporting event or team they cover.”

Meanwhile, sportsbooks understand the difference between betting on draft picks and the outcome of a game, and place much lower limits on draft pick betting so they take less responsibility. “It’s not a traditional game,” said Jeff Sherman, vice president of risk management for Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. “It’s something where people are competing for information. So you’re paying attention to every reporter, because all bets are based on information.”

Sherman said Nevada has legalized gambling on drafts only in recent years, and gambling in the state is restricted 24 hours before the event, although other states allow same-day gambling. He took out the first pick prop bet in the NBA draft early Thursday morning.

Sherman added that the situation with the NBA draft was unprecedented. There have been wild swings in draft betting in previous years according to reporters’ information. And when NBA star Kawhi Leonard has missed a slew of games this season not because of injury but because of regular layoff, there has often been a race among punters to find out the status of him by setting night lines.

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