There’s no secret more heavily guarded in primetime than the identity of TV’s top reality winners, right?
Online gambling sites are becoming reality TV spoilers, exposing finalists and winners weeks before the shows do.
Earlier this month, Sportsbook.com announced that it had halted betting on the winner of CBS’ “The Amazing Race 7” after detecting a sharp increase in money placed on one team (potential spoiler alert) — Uchenna and Joyce Agu.
Eye, of course, won’t comment on whether the married duo ultimately win the “Race.” But if history is any guide, they’re a good bet.
Earlier this year, Bodog.com stopped wagers on “The Amazing Race 6” after someone staked a huge amount on contestants Freddy Holliday and Kendra Bentley.
Holliday and Bentley ultimately pulled from behind and won that season’s race.
Before that, BetWWTS.com shut down wagering on the second “The Apprentice” when a huge number of bets were placed on Kelly Perdew and Jennifer Massey. Those two did indeed wind up as the show’s two finalists.
And even before “Survivor: Pearl Islands” launched, a large number of bets were mysteriously placed on eventual winner Sandra Diaz-Twine.
These uncanny bettors have turned these sites into a thorn in the side of nets, producers and fans of reality TV. Shows take elaborate precautions — confidentiality agreements, decoys and security — to squash leaks, points out one net exec. “But what it all comes down to is the loyalty of the people on the show,” the exec says. “And that’s something you’re never going to have 100%.”
Family members of contestants may also get tempted to get a payoff.
No one knows exactly who’s making the bets — the online sites, safely located offshore in places like Costa Rica and Antigua, aren’t saying.
Stuart Doyle, the wagering director at BetWWTS.com, says gamblers with inside info will open up five or six accounts under different names in order to avoid detection.
Doyle’s Web site has stopped offering wagers on reality series that have been taped in advance, like “Survivor.”
“It was almost as though people involved in the shows couldn’t keep their hands out of the till,” Doyle says.
The site still allows bets on shows like “American Idol,” which rely on public voting, however.
Meanwhile, despite the “Amazing Race” breach, Sportsbook.com is still taking bets on the latest editions of “Survivor” and “The Apprentice.”
The nets aren’t showing their cards about deterrence efforts. “There are things you can do and there are things being done,” says one cryptic net exec.
“Ultimately, it still hasn’t proven to have a detrimental effect on the ratings of these shows,” he says. “And it’s always fun when they are wrong.”