It was only a matter of time before the Vegas Golden Knights made some sort of shady deal, right? It is Vegas, after all.
Last week, the Knights — the Gambling Capital of the World’s first major professional sports franchise — announced they had strung together a multi-year partnership with a company nobody’s heard of called “UpickTrade.” Or, how the club strategically worded it, a “sports betting recommendation service” that would be recognized as an “Official Sports Pick Service Partner” of the team.
But after Deadspin reached out to both the Knights and the NHL to inquire about this new partner, Vegas abruptly put the kibosh on the whole thing — just 72 hours after making its grand announcement — killing the deal quite coldly with the following statement:
“The Vegas Golden Knights have ended their sponsorship agreement with UpickTrade. The organization will not have additional comments on the matter at this time.”
Ouch. What happened here?
Neither the Knights nor the NHL responded to Deadspin’s requests for an interview.
Well, ultimately, the Knights came around to making the correct decision, after what was truly a boneheaded idea from its inception — one those familiar with sports gambling knew would be a big mistake right away (hence why the club’s tweet of the announcement that quickly got ratio’d).
Vegas had partnered with what is known as a “tout” company. These are operations that prey on new and/or naive bettors, selling picks with exaggerated claims and false promises of impending riches. Such scummy activity has been in existence for decades, dating back to old 1-800-number scams by the likes of Stu Feiner (who is unsurprisingly also a current employee of Barfstool Sports).
“Shady” would be an understatement to describe how these “services” operate. In almost all cases, along with outright lies supplied by the “service,” there is no full transparency of documented win-loss records, meaning a potential customer has no way to know if these places are actually a winning venture.
Obviously, with the PASPA ruling almost three years ago giving states the permission to legalize sports gambling if they so choose, there’s more ripeness than ever to lure in suckers. By nearly plastering their odorific brand on in-game and in-arena features, as well as web and social media platforms, the Knights were going to give it some sort of legitimacy seemingly without even doing their homework on this shadowy industry.
And out of all the sports-pick-selling scams to choose from (unfortunately, there are many), Vegas decided to go with one that’s based in Mexico and has been around for a grand total of three years?
The Knights really dodged a major bullet. Had they not backed out of the deal, team president Kerry Bubolz most certainly would have been a lock for our Deadspin Idiots of the Year at the end of 2021. Maybe Top 10.
There are plenty of reasons why you never see this type of agreement between a team and sponsor in North American leagues. But it has happened once before.
In 2011, Adam Meyer bought premium ad space behind home plate for select games from the then-Florida Marlins, flashing his site, AdamWins.com. Imagine watching Hanley Ramirez taking an AB on TV or the view from behind Ricky Nolasco as he throws a pitch, and seeing an ad for buying trash picks. Meyer’s career in this endeavor didn’t go so hot and he’s now sitting in prison about halfway through an eight-year sentence for charges of fraud (not to mention extortion, racketeering and brandishing a firearm). Also AdamWins.com appears available for sale.
It’s truly bizarre how the Knights — a team in Vegas, no less, that should be aware of this type of fraudulent activity more than any other city in the country — came to this pact in the first place. UpickTrade doesn’t even waste any time on their website getting into the grifting, with the tagline under the logo being “Living Off Sports.” In reality, very few actually do.
The red flags don’t stop there. Right in the center of the main page, CEO Carlos Lazo takes this even further by proclaiming that “more than 6,000 clients around the world have changed their perspective and are now making a living off of sports.” Really?
Apparently, Lazo may have tripped up on his own numbers because in the very press release announcing the initial partnership, Lazo is quoted as saying UpickTrade has “now grown to over 6,000 subscribers to our sports recommendations service worldwide!” since the company’s beginning in 2017. Wait, what?
So, Lazo is not only saying that literally every single subscriber is up, but is “making a living off of sports.” When Deadspin inquired about this, the company did not respond. If I may call on a line from Herm Edwards, HELLO?
That’s quite a bold claim. One that is, indubitably, an outright lie. There is not one company, nor will there ever be one, that has every single one of thousands of subscribers (if that number of clients provided by Lazo is even accurate) in the black, let alone making a living as well!
To its credit, UpickTrade does acknowledge in an FAQs section that “sports trading is volatile (just like stock market trading) and occasional losing days are inevitable,” while reassuring subscribers that “the most important thing is to follow [its] recommendations as they are given, maintain a level of control over your capital and remember this is a long-term way to make extra money.”
But, uh, why are they calling it “extra money” there when it’s emphasized all over their site that the idea is to “make a living off of sports?”
They also do possess a “Records” page. However, the effort to pose something credible is poor at best. There’s no timestamp of when their picks were established and the photos of wagers they claimed to have made are posted after the games are done. Plus, how are we supposed to know if they’re avoiding posting certain losses then? What a mess.
Curiously, UpickTrade hadn’t even updated their performance on picks from February 25-27 until just today. The results from the last two days are not up.
Most cringeworthy are the bets themselves. Take a look at this frightening sight of a sample card for an UpickTrade customer. This was from last Tuesday, featuring four NBA games — two were pretty heavy moneyline favorites (betting on a team to win without the spread) and the other two were “alternate lines,” all of which are saddled with plenty of extra vig.
This is a complete total no-no in sports gambling. No one wins long term (let alone makes a living off it!) laying around -200ish odds on average. A closer inspection of the company’s picks history reveals this is their betting approach regularly, even with wagers above -300. Bringing up such a strategy would get you uproariously laughed at by any veteran.
Being a professional sports bettor is incredibly difficult and a microscopically low percentage of gamblers qualify as such (most likely far below one percent). But now here we have a company that was born only three years ago (!) — meaning there’s no proof of any long-term success, let alone in the short term — that promises you will live luxuriously by paying $89 per month (yuck) for their completely unproven picks. This is Scamming 101.
It’s bizarre the Knights simply didn’t connect with a sportsbook (as a lot of teams have done already in recent years) instead. Perhaps they just wanted to try something different. Perhaps they were met with an absurd amount of money.
With how universally disliked “tout” companies are, I’d say the more favored potential outcome is never seeing such a sponsorship again in sports. What happened here in Vegas, stays in Vegas.