Arizona Dept. of Gaming Bans Fighting League From Sportsbooks After Suspicious Betting Activity

Written By Matt Boecker on May 12, 2022 - Last Updated on May 13, 2022

The Arizona Department of Gaming has removed a fighting league from state-licensed sportsbooks after alleged foul play took place regarding an event.

ESPN’s Paul Lavigne and David Purdum reported on the incident involving the Professional Fighters League Challenger Series.

On April 1st, the PFL was streaming fights on fuboTV. To advertise the event, fuboTV’s social media accounts posted about the event, explicitly stating it was live. Fubo Sportsbook is also a licensed gaming operator in the Grand Canyon State.

Former chief of the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s enforcement division Karl Bennison wrote in an email to ESPN this is a first for him. He’s seen sportsbooks make errors about event dates and details, but never a misrepresentation from the sports league and streaming service on when the event is taking place.

How the scandal was uncovered

In the days following the fights, U.S. Integrity, a company that monitors betting markets for suspicious activity, alerted sportsbooks that the fights were pre-recorded on March 25th.

While U.S. Integrity can’t provide much detail into their findings because the investigation is ongoing, one thing that may have tipped them off is the massive swing in betting lines for some fights.

For example, fighter Rakim Talley went from a -290 favorite to a -2,500 favorite to defeat his opponent. Talley came out victorious in his bout, and there were four other similar instances of massive odd movement where the heavy favorite took the win.

The Arizona Department of Gaming decided to remove the PFL from its wagering catalog. In a statement to PlayAZ, The ADG says the Professional Fighters League was removed due to wagering integrity concerns from their last event.

Meaning that you will not see any PFL events on any AZ Sportsbooks anytime soon. This is not an issue with other professional fighting leagues such as UFC or boxing events. However, this is part of the reason you won’t see betting lines on professional wrestling events on state-licensed sports betting sites in Arizona.

PFL and Fubo speak out

In a statement to ESPN, PFL spokesperson Loren Mack mentioned this being the first time in league history that an event was recorded and aired at a later date. Mack didn’t explain why it was happening with the event in question.

Mack also distanced the PFL from sportsbooks posting betting lines on the event, adding that the league didn’t advertise gambling content to draw viewers to the April 1 fights.

“Any sportsbooks that took bets on the prerecorded program did so without the consent or knowledge of the PFL,” Mack emailed.

Jennifer Press, senior vice president of communication for fuboTV, also told ESPN that PFL events are always live-streamed and this was a one-off scenario. For the April 1 fights, Press said social media advertising and other promos were copies of promos used for previous fights.

She also expressed her regret for the advertising errors made by fubo.

Winning bets suspended

Because of the suspected foul play, many sportsbooks haven’t cashed out winning tickets from the event.

A spokesperson for DraftKings Sportsbook told ESPN that they noticed suspicious betting activity before U.S. Integrity sent out the notification about the possible foul play.

“At the time we believed the event in question was live. After noticing unusual activity on a number of fights, DraftKings removed the markets [on its own accord]. We are working with regulatory bodies to determine the appropriate course of action.”

Photo by AP / Matt Rourke
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Matt Boecker

Matt Boecker is a 2020 graduate of Northern Illinois University hailing from Chicago. Boecker specializes in coverage of sports betting and legalization. Former teammates and coworkers describe him as a nice guy who tries hard and loves the game.

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