NBA investigating Raptors’ Porter for prop betting irregularities

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The NBA is investigating Toronto Raptors forward Jontay Porter for potential betting irregularities related to prop wagers on his own performances, including the possibility that Porter bet the under on his own performances.

ESPN reported on Thursday that two games in particular are being explored by the league: the Raptors’ Jan. 26 game against the LA Clippers and their March 20 clash with the Sacramento Kings.

For the first of those two games, prop bets on the number of 3-pointers Porter would make were the biggest money winner of any NBA player prop that evening at DraftKings, ESPN reports. The over/under for that prop was 0.5. In four minutes of action, Porter didn’t attempt a 3-pointer before exiting the game with a reported eye injury. Two days later, he played 19 minutes and scored 12 points.

Then, on March 20, Porter went scoreless with two rebounds in three minutes against the Sacramento Kings before leaving with an illness. Those points and rebound totals were both below the prop bets over/unders for that game. Again, DraftKings reported that Porter props were the top moneymaker in the NBA.

Meanwhile, an industry source told ESPN that other sportsbooks had reported that multiple betting accounts attempted to bet large amounts — five-figure sums, in some cases — on Porter props hitting the under in that January Clippers game. “People were trying to do whatever they could to bet Jontay Porter props” for that game, said the source. “And then, just a few days ago [for the Kings game], the same thing. We had a bunch of people trying to bet under for more.”

Major sports leagues in North America prohibit players, coaches and other officials from betting on that league’s events and can fine, suspend or terminate the contract of anyone found guilty.

Since then, Porter has missed the last two games for what the Raptors called personal reasons.

Prop bet irregularities can be difficult to spot

While it has not been confirmed whether the alleged irregularities around Porter’s props amount to illicit betting activity, prop bets can be troublesome when it comes to spotting suspect betting.

Because prop bets focus on specific elements of a game or a player’s performance, their outcomes often don’t affect the overall game or its scoreline and so they can take a great deal of attention and investigation to uncover. Major sports leagues in North America rely on the assistance of external integrity experts to identify such irregularities.

Complicated relationship between sports and betting

The Porter case is the latest example of the increasingly complex confluence of major sports and sports betting.

Earlier in 2024, New England Patriots wide receiver Kayshon Boutte was charged in Louisiana with computer fraud and prohibited gaming amid allegations that he made prop bets on his own performances in LSU college games.

The headlines last week mostly surrounded LA Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani, one of the biggest names in sport. Ohtani’s interpreter Ippei Mizuhara was fired by the Dodgers and is accused of stealing millions of dollars from the player for the purposes of gambling in California, where sports betting remains illegal.

MLB has opened an investigation into the incident, while Ohtani himself gave a statement a Monday saying he has never gambled on sports, didn’t tell Mizuhara to wire money from his account to pay a bookmaker, and was “shocked” to discover that Mizuhara “has been stealing money from us and has told lies.”

And on the broadcasting side of things, ESPN host Rece Davis came under fire this week after describing making a college basketball game prop bet as “a risk-free investment.” He subsequently issued a statement after his choice of words was scrutinized. Parties including some sportsbooks, the state of New York, and the American Gaming Association have taken a stance by removing or banning the use of the term “risk-free” in betting materials or advertising.