When Shohei Ohtani was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League on Thursday evening, it made the pitcher/slugger very happy after an historic season. It made his Angels teammates and the fans of that team proud. It made his millions of baseball fans in Japan ecstatic that a native son did so well in the American game.
It also made one sports bettor in Nevada extremely jubilant. The anonymous gambler won $900,000 by betting $30,000 in March at 30-to-1 odds that the Angels star would win the MVP.
Ohtani’s win is special because he played as a two-way player in 2021, making 23 starts on the mound and going 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA in 130 1/3 innings. He hit 46 homers, led the league in triples, and had 26 stolen bases. His skill at both facets of the game not only makes Ohtani a phenomenally popular superstar but also one of the most valuable weapons in the history of the game.
How great was Ohtani this season? He started at pitcher for the AL in the All-Star Game and competed in the Home Run Derby the night before.
Ohtani’s MVP chances were clear about five or six weeks into the season, but savvy bettors who were on him in Spring Training put sportsbooks in a tough spot, and the books are paying the winners now. Those losses are part of doing business, but they come from a betting market (futures MLB awards) whose growth in popularity is putting bookmakers to the test.
“[We] don’t want to lose, but you got to applaud the bettor’s moxie for putting that big of bet on it,” Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading at Caesars Sportsbook, told Purdum. “It’ll definitely be a first, and we will move on and be open the next day.”
Sportsbooks Only Recently Began Offering Awards Futures
MLB awards, like those in other sports such as the Heisman Trophy and NFL MVP, are relatively new markets for bettors at regulated U.S sportsbooks. Up until 2015, Nevada books did not offer odds on awards. As states have rolled out legalized sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down PASPA in May 2018, the awards market has become increasingly available to bettors. But it’s been largely ignored by many bettors.
“This year more people started paying attention to the [awards future] market,” says professional bettor and sports betting content creator Jason Winegarner, who bets primarily on MLB and tweets under the Spreadapedia handle.
“I have bet on defensive player of the year in the NFL, and I will look at MVP and MLB awards futures odds,” Winegarner told Gaming Today. “It’s not something a lot of people pay attention to.”
William Hill Refused Some Futures Bets On Ohtani
There was speculation that Winegarner was the person who put $30K down on Ohtani at 30-to-1. But it wasn’t him. In fact, he was denied an opportunity to win his own futures bet on the Angels star.
According to Winegarner, he attempted to place a bet on Ohtani to win the MVP in April, but William Hill (since purchased and rebranded by Caesars) rejected the bet. It later changed the odds. This type of activity, while not illegal, is seen as bad practice and unethical by bettors.
— Spreadapedia (@Spreadapedia) November 18, 2021
“At some point, I am going to send their offices an invoice for my oddsmaking services,” Winegarner told Gaming Today, only partially joking. “I am serious. I know they won’t do anything with it, but I want them to see that [I know] what they are doing.”
With the excitement over Ohtani in ’21, and the case of the AL Cy Young race, where Robbie Ray won the award after sportsbooks didn’t even have him on the board until May, interest in the MLB awards futures market may continue to evolve.