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Will Jontay Porter Saga Lead To Ban On Two-Way Player Props?

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Approximately a month has passed since the NBA issued a lifetime ban against former Toronto Raptors center Jontay Porter for significant violations of the league’s gambling policy.

Porter allegedly committed a litany of infractions, including one NBA Commissioner Adam Silver deemed a “cardinal sin,” in professional basketball. Porter, according to the NBA’s investigation, leaked inside information on a purported illness to a bettor. The gambler subsequently used the intel to place a five-figure Same Game Parlay on the center. The Porter scandal is one of several that have rocked the nation’s legal sports betting market in recent weeks.

Since then, the NBA has reportedly discussed measures with its authorized gaming operators to help protect the integrity of the game.

Multiple outlets have reported on the discussions, including ESPN, which heard directly from Silver. One option, according to a source who spoke to Sports Handle on the condition of anonymity, surrounds a potential ban on props involving NBA players on two-way contracts.

Porter, the younger brother of Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., signed a two-way deal with the Raptors last December. A player who signs a two-way contract will receive one salary for his time with an NBA club, as well as its NBA G-League affiliate. The two-way deal enables a player to move back and forth between both teams in the same season.

Safeguarding integrity in the game

When the Raptors faced the Kings on March 20, Porter left the game early after informing the team that he experienced an illness. Appearing on the floor for just three minutes, Porter shot 0-for-1 from the field to finish without a point.

According to the NBA, an individual who Porter regarded as a known bettor, communicated with the center before the game. The individual, according to the investigation, placed an $80,000 Same Game Parlay, which included several legs with Porter-specific props. The parlay carried a potential payout of around $1.1 million. At least one leg included an option that Porter would underperform on a certain total.

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Lauren Lemmer has considerable expertise in analyzing financial markets. Before she joined Fanatics, Lemmer worked at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), where she served as an examiner-in-training. Earlier this month, Lemmer appeared on a panel on M&A in gambling at the SBC Gaming Regulation and Compliance Forum in Manhattan.

When the topic of Porter’s ban arose, Lemmer indicated that “right-sizing” any sort of regulation is critical in contentious issues. But when it comes to a consensus on props, the leagues and sportsbooks will demonstrate progress if the sides can establish “regulatory alignment,” she emphasized. Lemmer likened the potential guidelines to standards in the securities industry on insider trading.

When asked on the importance for safeguarding the integrity of sports outcomes, Lemmer indicated that such assurances to the customer are paramount. An appealing aspect of watching sports, she explained, is that the result is unscripted.

It is one reason why sports betting can be intriguing, according to the executive. In 2016, practically no one picked Leicester City to win the English Premier League at 5,000/1. Six years later, Rich Strike triumphed at the Kentucky Derby as the longest shot on the board (80/1).

“If that is ever compromised, it changes the experience and damages credibility,” she told Sports Handle on the sidelines of the event.

Lemmer serves as senior director of Governance & Product Compliance at Fanatics Betting and Gaming. Another sportsbook executive delved into the topic while speaking on the condition of anonymity. The exec drew a line between props on star players such as “LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Jayson Tatum,” with role players who may receive a few minutes off the bench.

Those with earnings near the league minimum could be more susceptible to engage in prop manipulation if they become saddled with gambling debts. Limitations on props involving role players should be an item for discussion, according to the executive.

On its face, potential bans may hardly dent the profit margins for top operators. Since the NBA is a star-driven league, bettors primarily wager on starters now (see: the explosion in Caitlin Clark props).

But some two-way players have arguably outperformed their contracts over the past several years. The list of prominent two-way players includes: Austin Reeves, Lu Dort, Caleb Martin, and Alex Caruso, among others.

Porter, according to the investigation, placed at least 13 bets on NBA games using an associate’s online betting account. The bets, which totaled $54,094, were placed over the first three months of the year. The NBA issued the ban one day after Sports Handle and The Action Network reported that Porter maintained a VIP betting account at FanDuel’s Colorado sportsbook. Porter never wagered on NBA games from the account, according to FanDuel.

Negative outcome props

Following the event, the conference moved to the Meadowlands Expo Center in Secaucus, New Jersey, a short drive from the Lincoln Tunnel. The aftermath of the Porter ban represented one of the most pressing topics over the final two days of the SBC Summit North America conference.

At the moment, the majority of the top sportsbooks nationwide — FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, Caesars, ESPN BET, Fanatics, and BetRivers — are either official gaming partners or authorized gaming operators of the NBA.

The operators continue to monitor possible prop restrictions in other sports. A proposed bill in North Carolina seeks to ban props on all non-professional athletes.

Outside of the U.S., England’s Football Association charged West Ham midfielder Lucas Paqueta on Thursday with a breach of gambling rules. The charges, which Paqueta denied, are related to allegations that he intentionally received a yellow card to affect betting markets.

The flurry of activity begs to question if top pro sports commissioners will be called for a Congressional hearing on federalism in sports betting. Such a hearing has not been scheduled yet. New York Rep. Paul Tonko is tweaking the language of the SAFE Bet Act, a federal bill he introduced in March that aims to create safeguards for certain marketing inducements across the industry.

One leading executive, BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt, discussed some of the most germane issues related to the Porter case in a 15-minute interview. Greenblatt questioned whether the ban of negative-outcome bets, i.e. the under on assist totals or made 3-pointers, will push customers offshore.

Moreover, if the bet types are still offered on illegal markets, Greenblatt is skeptical as to whether a ban will correct the “underlying problem.”

The executive drew comparisons to strategies in responsible gambling where he took some stakeholders to task for placing a greater emphasis on “managing headlines” than actually helping compulsive gamblers.

By placing constraints on the legal market, there is a heightened risk that it may add fuel to the illegal one, he argued. Will underlying concerns on match manipulation be ameliorated if props on role players are still available offshore?

“My strong desire would be to solve the underlying problem,” he told Sports Handle.

An NBA spokesman did not respond to a request from Sports Handle for comment.

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