(Reuters) - Online bookmakers, already hit by the stoppage of live sports due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, suffered a further setback when the results of an NBA 2K20 video game tournament were leaked online.
The tournament features 16 current NBA players, seeded according to their past performance playing the game, battling one another from the comfort of their homes.
But despite the first-round games appearing to be played live when they were broadcast on ESPN and ESPN 2, they were actually pre-recorded.
"It became clear that somebody knew something, and that the results had been leaked," David Strauss, head oddsmaker at MyBookie.ag, told Reuters.
"That's a nightmare scenario for us. When a result is compromised, we close the lines and look for the info ourselves.
"It's almost always in the forums or on Twitter."
He added they were able to limit their losses by suspending betting.
The income of some betting companies has dropped by as much as 80% after the coronavirus pandemic brought global sport to a virtual standstill, forcing organizers to cancel, postpone or suspend events scheduled this year.
The lack of live action means many people have switched their focus to NBA 2K games, where a computer controls both teams.
When a wave of bets were placed on 16th-seeded Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones to beat top-seeded Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant, which he did 78-62 on Friday, it became clear that those placing bets knew something.
"We initially made Durant the favorite to win the tournament but when .... the bets were completely one-sided toward Jones, it became obvious that someone knew the outcome of the game," said SportsBetting.ag odds manager Robert Cooper, whose company lost a sum in the low five figures on the opening round.
NBA 2K did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The tournament's second round features Patrick Beverley, Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker, Andre Drummond, Rui Hachimura, Montrezl Harrell, Trae Young and Jones.
The winner will select a charity to receive a $100,000 donation - which will be made by 2K, the NBA and the NBA Players Association - to support the coronavirus relief efforts.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles, editing by Pritha Sarkar)