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Rovell: How Sportsbooks and Bettors Are Trying To Take Advantage of Astros Cheating Scandal

Rovell: How Sportsbooks and Bettors Are Trying To Take Advantage of Astros Cheating Scandal article feature image

Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve

Sportsbooks are trying to get in on the Astros-hating business. It’s certainly a better business than the Astros-loving business.

Two sportsbooks, William Hill and PointsBet, have now offered new markets to take advantage of the Anti-Astros sentiment — Hit-by-Pitch totals for Houston in the 2020 MLB season. William Hill opened the market on Monday at 83.5 plunkings while PointsBet released its total at 75.5 HBPs.

Another sportsbook, the Superbook in Las Vegas, posted a “First Astros player to be hit by a pitch” prop on Tuesday. The most outspoken and most criticized Astros have the shortest odds. Alex Bregman is the dubious favorite at 7-2 (+350) while Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve are at +400.

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DraftKings oddsmaker Johnny Avello told The Action Network he’s studying the hit-by-pitch market, but wants to have a good rapport with baseball and isn’t convinced this is the best bet to offer.

The most popular Astros-related future bet is, unsurprisingly, the Under on their season win total. BetMGM opened the Astros win total at 97.5 and has since dropped the number to 95.5.

“Any bet coming through is typically on the under,” said Christian Cipollini, sports trader at BetMGM. Cipollini said the book has only taken three bets on the over.

FanDuel opened the Astros win total at 98.5 and have moved Houston down to 94.5 wins. FanDuel spokesman Kevin Hennessy says 91.7% of the money is currently on the under at their shop.

William Hill told the Action Network that nearly 90% of the money for Houston’s Over/Under at William Hill is on the under (currently at 94.5), making them the second-most popular under play in their book. Only the Boston Red Sox, who are waiting on the results of MLB’s investigation into their cheating scandal, have attracted more under money this winter (93%).

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred would not comment on whether the Astros investigation is still ongoing, other than to say that the player’s promised immunity was contingent on honesty. That leaves a door open for even more fade value should some of Houston’s players get slapped with big suspensions.

“If players are suspended, that win total could drop by 15 games,” Avello speculated.

Although the Astros have the third best odds to win the World Series — William Hill, for example has them at 17-2 after opening them at 9-2 on Oct. 31 — very little action has been taken at the sportsbooks.

William Hill says 49% of its total World Series handle has been bet on four teams — the Yankees (21%), Dodgers (11%), Angels and White Sox (9% each). The Astros, on the other hand, rank 29th in number of tickets (the Pittsburgh Pirates are 30th) and 21st in total money bet to win the World Series at William Hill.

Hennessy said Houston only accounts for 0.25% of their total handle in the World Series future market. That is a stark contrast to recent seasons when Houston was among the most popular picks to win the Commissioner’s Trophy.

“In the last month, we have only taken 16 bets on the Astros in the World Series market. Last year, the Astros were consistently a top selection,” Hennessy said.

On Wednesday, DraftKings added an “AstroNomics” market featuring bets on how many total home runs certain Astros will hit at home in the regular season.

How the Astros daily soap opera continues is a mystery, but it’s already clear that playing the Astros — for or against — will be a key betting market this season.

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