Euro 2020 Sports Betting Review and a Few Thoughts on Handball Betting

Amateur vs Pro Bettor…

A Handball Betting Experiment

During the 2020 Men’s European Handball Championships this past January I conducted a little betting experiment with “Samo”, a professional handball bettor from Slovenia. We each started the tournament with 1000 Euros and made a variety of wagers almost every day. My imaginary bank roll of 1,000 Euros took a 115 Euro hit, leaving me with just 885 Euros. Meanwhile, Samo fared considerably better, netting a profit of 860 Euros. That’s a solid return on investment.

Overall, most of our wagers were around 100 Euros. My W-L-D record was 7-8-1 (46.7%) and Samo’s was 12-4-1 (75%). Because we each had several bets that weren’t 50-50 point spreads these percentage don’t tell the whole story, but they tell a story. 50% is about one would get by throwing darts. 75% is doing pretty damn well. Historically, professional bettors are very happy with 55-60 %.

Side Note on My Personal Sports Betting History

Back in the day I was a much more active sports bettor. Frequent trips to Vegas and parents living there accommodated this hobby. For the most part I bet American Football and basketball and bet on the teams I liked when I thought they had a good line. I learned the hard way to never bet on my teams when I thought they would lose. Why? Well, it sucks to root for your team to lose. (I guess if I was more serious about my “hobby” I wouldn’t care.) Anyway, after awhile I decided to meticulously track my wins and losses. And, what did I find out? Well, I found I was right almost exactly half the time. Yes, there was a diminishing sine wave that would start at 60% to 40% and then over time dampen from 55% to 45% and so on.

So, I couldn’t stay above the magical 52.38% (The break even % with the Vegas house cut), but proved to myself that if the wager size didn’t get out of hand, it was pretty decent entertainment that wouldn’t break my bank. And, if you’ve ever been to Vegas during the NCAA basketball tourney with 16 games on Thursday and Friday for 12 hours of non-stop action and hundreds of people cheering, it can be phenomenal entertainment. (Trust me, if that experience is not your bucket list it should be.)

Anyway, the point of this personal history is to make it clear. Done right, there is nothing morally bankrupt about sports betting.

Wrong Handball Betting

Of course, handball betting can also be done wrong… very wrong. And, there can be no more troubling example than the 2012 Montpellier scandal. As new people in the U.S. are always discovering handball they may not be aware that one of the greatest handball players of all time, Nikola Karabatic and his brother Luka were found guilty of being a part of a match fixing scheme. I’m always a bit amazed at how handball can somehow sweep history like this under the rug, but swept it has been for the most part. Even more amazed that the penalties were so minor. Seriously, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose would both be in the Hall of Fame if baseball adopted handball’s penalty structures.

Montpellier Scandal: Link 1 Link 2

Evolving Views on Sports Betting and a Way to Help Popularize Handball

For some perspective on the evolving situation check out my commentary from 2008 on sports betting. Yes, 12 years later the times are a changing big time. U.S. leagues are now talking to sports books. They are even signing data partnerships to ensure the integrity of the game. The Las Vegas Knights play in the NHL and the Las Vegas Raiders are joining the NFL. The NBA even wants a cut on sports bets made on NBA games! These moves were almost unthinkable 12 years ago.

Even more dramatic: Sports betting is legal now in 13 states. Christ, there are sports books in Iowa now for crying out loud. And, more and more states are allowing mobile betting from the comfort of your own home.

Further, there are now more interesting ways to bet sports now. The proposition bets on individual players used to be a Super Bowl only opportunity. Now it’s every game… And, even for handball. If you think a certain player is going to struggle to get his goals because the defense a team plays you can bet that. There are a ridiculous number of possibilities.

And, the possibility that handball betting could help popularize the sport in the U.S. shouldn’t be loss on anyone trying to grow the game in this country. During the Xavier O’Callaghan interview with Barstool Sports the subject of gambling on handball came up briefly. And, why wouldn’t they ask that question. The popular sports website is selling a 36% stake in the company ($163M) to sports betting company, Penn National Gaming, with an option to take that stake to 50%. Yes Barstool Sports is well on its way to becoming a gambling company with a website and podcasts.

In the not too distant future could we see the Barstool guys debating the line on Paris SG – Kiel? Or whether Mikkel Hansen will score more than 6.5 goals? Could be. And, make no mistake that could help popularize the game, big time.

My Favorite Handball Bad Beat

ESPN does Sports Center segment where they review the bad beats of the week. The bets you thought you had won only to lose in the end.

Well, watch the closing minutes of the Spain – Croatia match where I had Spain at -2.5 Link (at around 2:00:00 on the efhTV clock)

Two easy chances for Spain to win by 3 and one of those chances foiled by sportsmanship! Well, you know what they say… Losing a close bet is as almost as much entertaining as winning it.