In the Rings: Curling and sports betting — rolling the dice on the pebbled ice

A fun moment at the end of the recent Pan Continental curling championship's men's final provided a welcome dash of levity in a blowout game.

The unusual finish — in a sport still getting used to the arrival of legalized sports betting — may have been costly for some bettors.

"If you had the under ticket there, it was maybe just a bit of a bad beat," said Coolbet curling oddsmaker Matt Hall.

With Canada leading South Korea 11-2 in the eighth end, skips Brad Gushue and Byeongjin Jeong hammed it up for their final throws at Calgary's WinSport Arena.

Gushue weaved his last stone between his legs for a trick shot. Teammate Mark Nichols playfully stopped the rock with his broom so that it stayed in the house.

Jeong held on to his final rock for most of the sheet before finally releasing it at the far hogline. Broadcasters, players and spectators enjoyed it and the teams shook hands as South Korea formally conceded.

"You can't expect normal things to happen in an 11-2 game," said Gerry Geurts, president of the CurlingZone website. "You're kind of at the whims of the game at that point."

The final score was 11-3 as South Korea got a point for a stone that wasn't touched on the final throws. That point pushed the over-under total — listed at 13.5 on the bet365 sportsbook — from 'under' to 'over' territory.

Bettors with the under were hoping for a blanked end — an unlikely outcome that was still possible — but the frivolity ensured an over finish.

"As a federation we monitor irregular sports betting patterns and none were detected from the game or the championship," Chris Hamilton, the World Curling Federation's head of communications and marketing, said in an email.

"As sports betting becomes more prevalent in curling, we have to ensure that we are constantly evaluating our rules to continue to provide accurate and complete scoring data and to assess how we can appropriately approach games which finish in the manner of the men’s final of the Pan Continental championships."

Gambling and curling have become more intertwined this year in Canada. The single-game sports betting industry fully opened in Ontario last spring.

Several elite Canadian teams are sponsored by sportsbooks, and PointsBet Canada has a long-term partnership deal with Curling Canada.

Umpires at the recent PointsBet Invitational competition reminded athletes late in games not to prematurely kick rocks away and to make sure final point tallies were correct.

If a prop bet has an unusual outcome — think football if a quarterback's total rushing yards are trimmed due to kneeldowns — a sportsbook may choose to refund bets on the losing side.

A message left with Bet365 on its plans was not immediately returned.

"I think that just in general, we're a game of honour and integrity and of traditions," WCF president Beau Welling said in a recent interview. "At the same time, we want to evolve into a more modern sporting environment, a more cross-cultural environment.

"I think we've got to work hard on preserving all that's great about our sport — the spirit of curling — but at the same time evolve and adapt."

Coolbet had a 12.5-point over-under on the game. Many Canadian sportsbooks didn't offer odds on the world championship qualifier, which included several teams considered curling minnows.

The Canada-South Korea finish was trumpeted in the WCF's post-game wrapup. It was also featured prominently in television highlight packages.

"It's something that probably brings eyeballs and a little bit of excitement to the fans," Geurts said. "I think this is a trade-off that you have to live with in our sport. Fun (shots like) the Stoughton spin-a-rama have become a little bit of a tradition.

"For the gamblers, it's something that they should come to expect is possible."


POLAND RETURNS

The WCF has welcomed the Polish Curling Clubs Federation as its 70th member association.

It's the latest step in a long process that began after the expulsion of the Polish Curling Association in January 2020. The WCF found the association to be in breach of the federation's constitution, specifically section 6.6.2.3: "bringing the sport into disrepute."

At the time, the WCF said it had made several requests to the association for it to resolve issues relating to its governance structures and disputes with the sport ministry in Poland.

The Polish Curling Clubs Federation was first approved as a provisional member last September, pending a Court of Arbitration for Sport appeal by the Polish Curling Association.

“It has been a long process, but we’re happy that conclusion of the procedure with CAS has given closure to the situation and allows the new federation and the Polish curling family to return their focus to competing on the ice," WCF secretary-general Colin Grahamslaw said in a release.


GANGNEUNG STYLE

Add two more world events to the curling calendar at the Gangneung Curling Centre.

The world wheelchair curling championship and the world wheelchair mixed doubles curling championship will be held in March 2024 at the South Korean venue.

The 3,500-seat facility hosted the curling competitions at the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

The centre will also host the 2023 world mixed doubles championship and the curling competition at the Gangwon 2024 Youth Olympics.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2022.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press