With five weeks remaining in the NBA’s regular season, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Houston’s James Harden are in a tight race to win Most Valuable Player.
Both players are putting up historic campaigns and have legitimate cases to win the award. It could go either way as the pair come down the stretch, but one sportsbook has already crowned its winner.
PointsBet announced Sunday afternoon that they are paying out all bets on Harden to win MVP.
🚨NBA MVP EARLY PAYOUT ALERT🚨— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) March 3, 2019
We've seen enough here at PointsBet HQ. That stepback over Kyrie & Tatum was from a 2 Time MVP Winner...
If you backed Harden for MVP - We have just PAID YOUR BET as a WINNER; 4 months prior to the announcement. #Rockets#NBA#SportsBettingpic.twitter.com/m7WvztsnDN
The announcement came just as Harden and the Rockets were finishing off a road victory over the Boston Celtics. In that game Harden scored 42 points, giving him an even 100 in his last two games after crushing the Heat for 58 points on Thursday.
Harden’s run of 30-point games was broken last week but he’s now averaged 43.3 points in his last three to begin a new streak.
Why PointsBet Is Paying Early
Antetokounmpo has caught up to Harden in the last month and some oddsmakers have even made him the favorite, but PointsBet feels comfortable enough that Harden will regain some of that momentum from December and January and earn his second consecutive MVP.
It’s also a smart marketing play for PointsBet to build customer loyalty by crediting bettors in good faith on bets that have not yet been decided. The idea is that NBA betting fans will be more likely to continue using that oddsmaker when making future wagers with the possibility that something like this could happen again.
It’s not the first time a sports betting website has deployed this tactic. Last November, FanDuel paid out all bets on Alabama football to win the 2019 National Championship.
Just give Bama the trophy already 🏆— FanDuel (@FanDuel) December 1, 2018
That's what @FDSportsbook is doing! If you bet on Alabama to win the CFB title, check your account—you've already been paid out 🤑
Plus, we're also offering boosted odds if you haven't bet on Bama yet. More details ➡️ https://t.co/q2Sl672qxepic.twitter.com/jhGT43KvtW
The Crimson Tide were 12-0 at the time and later that day defeated Georgia, 35-28, in the SEC Championship Game. Alabama then dismantled Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff semifinal before ultimately losing to Clemson in the title game.
The decision to pay out bettors 38 days in advance cost the company “upwards of $400,000,” according to an article on their own website.
A Broader Trend
These early payouts go beyond sports, too. During the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, the Irish Bookmaker, Paddy Power, paid out nearly $1 million to bettors who wagered that Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump.
Bad beats have also become a part of the betting website loyalty program. During last year’s NFL Playoffs, the Chicago Bears lost their first-round matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles because of a missed field goal by Cody Parkey at the end of regulation.
FanDuel credited bettors who took the Bears with a “bad beat credit” of $100. PointsBet also gave out credits to those who bet on the New Orleans Saints after a blown call late in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game kept the Rams in the game and may have cost the Saints a trip to the Super Bowl.
Harden’s MVP Case Strengthening Again
First the MVP was James Harden’s to lose. Then Giannis Antetokounmpo went on a two-month tear for the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks to catch up. And while he’s certainly still in the race, Harden is doing his best to get back out in front of the Greek Freak.
888Sport has Antetokounmpo and Harden with even -112 odds in NBA MVP betting. It couldn’t be closer, but Harden is coming off a week in which he reminded voters why he’s still the reigning champion.
Harden had games of 30, 58 and 42 points while leading the Rockets to three consecutive victories. Houston has now won five straight, including wins over the Warriors and Celtics, and has moved up to fifth in the West and just a single game behind No. 3 Oklahoma City and No. 4 Portland.
Clint Capela and Chris Paul have both returned from injury to act as Harden’s sidekicks, and the league’s leading scorer said after Sunday’s win that “it feels really, really good to kind of have a full roster and catch a rhythm.”
It seems likely that Houston will continue its winning ways behind Harden’s heroics, making him a solid MVP bet down the stretch.