by Robert Ferringo - 04/12/2006
Spoiler Warning: If you don't want to know who is going to win this season of Survivor don't read on.
Bodog, a licensed offshore gaming and entertainment institution, announced Tuesday afternoon that it has suspended all wagering activity on CBS's hit show Survivor: Panama. The measure was in response to some questionable betting patterns and a phone call from a "concerned citizen".
In a press release, Bodog said that someone called their Customer Service Center to allege that a close associate of Danielle DiLorenzo had leaked news of her possible victory to friends. DiLorenzo, a 24-year-old medical sales representative from Boston, is currently one of eight remaining contestants on Survivor: Panama. Even though the winner will not be announced until the live season finale, most contestants know who the final two will be.
Bodog stated that its suspicions were raised when it noticed a large number of maximum wagers placed, all from the same area, on DiLorenzo. This, coupled with the claims of the tipster, was enough to force the book to pull the line.
"Our entertainment bookmakers were quick to react and investigate this incident, and although we can't substantiate the claim of the person who called, the lines have been taken down as a precaution," said Calvin Ayre, Founder and CEO of Bodog, in a release.
Colleen Sullivan, the show's publicist, did not return phone calls made to her office.
As of yet, Bodog has not decided whether or not to declare the bet "No Action" and return all wagers, or to honor the bets that were placed before the line was pulled.
"Once we have completed our investigation, we will make that decision," said Bodog spokesman Greg Jorssen.
One of the more interesting decisions that was made by the online site was their choice to make the findings of their initial investigation public. As news of this potential scandal leaks out through cyber-space, the odds increase that many Survivor faithful will find out who won before the final episode.
And hell hath no fury like a woman whose reality show's ending gets spoiled.
Conversely, if DiLorenzo doesn't end up claiming the title of "Sole Survivor" they become The Book Who Cried Wolf. However, the executives at Bodog believe that their loyalty to their own customers, and those of their colleagues, outweighs any possible hurt feelings by CBS viewers.
"Our entertainment bets are designed to enhance the wagering and viewing experience for our customers, and it is our duty to ensure that the integrity of the lines are kept intact at all times," Ayre said in his statement.
"It is our duty to inform customers and the industry of any leaked information," Jorssen added.
For the contestants that compete on Survivor, the motto of the game outlines the simple rules and strategy: "Outwit, Outplay, Outlast". When the contestants leave the island, the rules are just as straightforward: Keep your mouth shut until the winner is announced.
Reportedly there is a clause in the contract that Survivor contestants sign beforehand that states if they reveal anything prematurely they are liable for $5 million. That amount is $4 million more than the winner's $1 million purse. To help prevent against leaks, the Survivor losers don't head home immediately; they're sent to an undisclosed location to wait out the length of production.
Despite these numerous and extensive safeguards, word can still get out.
Unlike traditional sports wagering, prop bets on pre-recorded television shows are a dicey proposition for sportsbooks. All it takes is one person with inside information for the books to take a hit. Besides expensive payouts to "winners", an exorbitant amount of betting on one or two contestants skews the odds so much that it may drive away potential gamblers from online sites.
Stephanie Stephens, a production artist in Atlanta, is an avid Survivor fan that has watched all 12 seasons. Over the past few editions, Stevens and some of her friends have each thrown in $50 to hold their own Survivor pool. She said that she is both surprised and disappointed about the leaked information.
"It's a downer," Stephens said. "I thought they were so strict, that it was so confidential, that nothing would get out."
Stephens said that she will definitely keep watching the show, but that possibly knowing the outcome will slightly alter her perception of it. She also believes that CBS and the producers of the show bear at least some responsibility for what has happened, and that hopefully circumstances like this will alter how they approach season finales in the future.
"When it gets down to the final three I think it should be taped live," Stephens added. "Right from the island. No families. No audience. Just do it right then and there."
This is actually the second time that Bodog's security team has sniffed out a potential scam involving Survivor. I'd say that bumps them up a notch on my personal list of all-time Crime Stoppers, putting them right between Robo Cop and McGruff the Crime Dog.
During the Amazon season it was revealed that several CBS employees were betting heavily on Bodog for either Jenna Morasca (the eventual winner) or Matt Von Ertfelda. In that circumstance, the CBS insiders opened accounts with Bodog just prior to the start of the Marquesas edition. They were all based in California, and the only thing that they wagered on was the outcome of the show. In the three seasons prior to Amazon the crooked players had nailed the final two - including the eventual winner - each time.
In the Pearl Island season another betting site had to stop taking action on the show when it noticed an inordinate amount of bets being placed on Sandra Diaz-Twine, who eventually won. Also, BetWWTS got hit for over $10,000 by a gambler who had inside information about the outcome of the second season of The Apprentice.
Bodog frequently offers proposition lines on a wide variety of pop culture, television and entertainment, and political events. In most cases, including their Survivor wagers, the maximum bet is $100.
As far as what this mini-scandal could mean for the future of prop betting at Bodog, Jorssen remained optimistic.
"Each time a leak occurs, we get quicker at reacting, and at taking the proper course to mitigate any risk to our customers," Jorssen said. "As with any proposition wagers where the outcome may be predetermined, there is a risk that inside information could be leaked. It is a risk we are willing to take, as our entertainment wagers are a tremendously popular offering."
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