Korean baseball league is sports betting hit

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Lions and Tigers and Bears – oh my!

Those were three of the teams on display as the Korea Baseball Organization opened its season in empty stadiums overnight Monday and into Tuesday morning after a weeks-long delay because of the coronavirus outbreak.

As one of the world’s first major professional sports competitions to return to action amid the pandemic, ESPN’s involvement seemed to stimulate Americans, as sports remains on hold in the United States.

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Fans will be barred from games until the KBO is convinced the risk of infection has been minimized, but avid bettors couldn’t wait to get in on the action.

“When I came in this morning I saw the figures — they were good,” William Hill director of trading Nick Bogdanovich said Tuesday. “Handle was pretty solid and we won a little. Just one more betting option in the hopper, which is good. I would give South Korean baseball a big thumbs up.

“Obviously, it helps that ESPN is putting one of the games on at 10 o’clock (pacific time).”

Underdogs went 3-2 on Opening Day, as $100 bettors would have made $140 betting all five underdogs at William Hill, which uses a 30-cent line.

If any member of a team tests positive for the coronavirus at any point of the season, the league will be shut down for at least three weeks.

Former Major League pitcher Nick Kingham started for the SK Wyverns in their opener against the Hanwha Eagles, and said he is glad for baseball to be back.

“Everyone has been looking for their fix,” said Kingham, who gave up six hits and three earned runs while striking out four over seven innings. “I hope this lasts.”

The Wyverns game — along with the other four openers — were streamed via the Twitch app with Korean broadcasting, while the NC Dinos-Samsung Lions game was broadcast on ESPN.

Kingham said he hopes media outlets will find a way to broadcast more games in English.

“Especially being that this is the only sports right now for people to watch,” he said. “The baseball competition is good and it’s as close to Major League Baseball as we’re going to see until everything opens back up.”

The Incheon-based Wyverns simulated a home crowd by covering their outfield seats with rows of horizontal banners displaying faces of fans wearing the team’s hats and masks during a 3-0 loss to the Eagles. It was Hanwha’s first season-opening win in 11 years, as former Detroit Tigers pitcher Warwick Saupold fired a two-hit, complete game shutout.

Barring any virus-related suspension, the KBO — which decided to scrap its All-Star Game and shorten the first round of the playoffs from best-of-five to best-of-three series — plans to maintain a 144-game regular season schedule.

Bogdanovich said the quality of the product should help with the integrity of wagering on Korean baseball while bettors wait for Major League Baseball to start its 2020 season.

“I think we’re starting to see the finish line and I think people are getting pretty excited about it,” Bogdanovich said. “I’m just worried about the time difference. Obviously, we got some extra major leaguers over there and occasionally we’ll get a South Korean in the majors. It’s solid baseball.

“South Korean baseball is definitely a step up from a lot of the stuff we’ve been booking, and it is baseball. Everyone is used to betting baseball in May, so I consider it a positive.”

About the Author

W.G. Ramirez

W.G. Ramirez is a 32-year veteran covering sports in Southern Nevada, and resident of 46 years. He is a freelance reporter in Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press.

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