Thursday, January 16, 2020

If You're Going to Cheat Bettors, Cheat Consistently

The completely unconfirmed report that buzzers were used to signal Astros hitters like Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman have set MLB on fire today. The repercussions from this, if true, for the game and the games' integrity is formidable.

If you read much of the press you'll hear and read some talk about the integrity of the game framed with wagering. I agree it's not great, but only to a point.

Let's say these hitters were using buzzers as a matter of course. If so, the edge they had was already incorporated into their batting averages and assorted analytics - the things we all use to wager. It's nothing, because a fake baseline is still a baseline.

Like in horse racing, a trainer that has some sort of rocket fuel and is winning at a 37% clip, with turnarounds galore, is doing so consistently. It's all built into the price.

To be clear, the issues with these examples - whether it be an Astro or a Supertrainer - are real and important in terms of the game, and the businesses themselves.

Fans don't plunk down all this money to watch their teams wondering if they're cheating. A supertrainer using something illegal upsets an entire ecosystem - they take horses from honest horsepeople, they take purse money away that was someone else's, they cause investment into horseflesh to fall. It's bad.

If an NBA referee is throwing *some* games, or signals are used only *sometimes* or a super trainer only uses rocket fuel on *some* horses, we as bettors have a big problem, right, and yes, the betting side of the game will be affected.

But, and perhaps this is a sad commentary, I think if you cheat, most of us will wager, as long as you cheat consistently.

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