It's supposed to be hard to make a half-court shot in front of 18,000 Oklahoma City Thunder fans. But five fans have sunk the shot in 2013, costing sponsor MidFirst Bank $100,000 this year.
Since the contest began in 2008, just eight of the 230 participants in the MidFirst Bank Shot have been successful. Two contestants have grabbed the $20,000 prize this week by sinking baskets at the last two Thunder home games in Chesapeake Energy Arena.
MidFirst Bank carries no insurance against losses from the contest, which it has sponsored at every Thunder home game.
“MidFirst writes the check; they're glad to pay it — they think it's money well spent,” Thunder spokesman Dan Mahoney said.
Although there has been a recent spate of winners in the Bank Shot contest, nobody made the shot in 90 home games spanning the first three seasons that MidFirst sponsored the contest, Mahoney said.
“That's still a very low percentage,” he said.
“When they do win, they do seem to hit in waves — it's complete coincidence,” Mahoney said.
Contest sponsors for promotions like the MidFirst Bank Shot typically purchase some type of prize indemnity insurance to guard against losses, said Kevin Hall, vice president of the Reno, Nev.-based insurance companies Hole In One International and Odds On Promotions.
Hall's firms provide up to $1 million of insurance for sponsors for events ranging from hole-in-one golf contests to casino bingo promotions.
The cost of a policy depends on a variety of conditions from the number of attempts a player is given, the value of the prize and how contestants are chosen, Hall said.
While the odds of hitting a hole-in-one in a golf competition are about one in 13,000, Hall estimated that the odds of making a basket from half court to be anywhere from one in 35 to one in 50 — depending on how contestants are chosen.
“The cost of insurance for that is going to be very expensive. As they are finding out, people are going to make the shot,” Hall said.
It actually might be cheaper for MidFirst Bank to just roll the dice on the Bank Shot contest rather than purchase a high-risk insurance policy, Hall said.
“Half-court shots are a lot easier to make than a hole-in-one at the golf course — so insurance is going to be a lot higher,” he said.
Despite its recent payouts, MidFirst says plans to continue its sponsorship of the Bank Shot contest. MidFirst Chairman and CEO Jeff Records is a part owner of the Thunder.
“The MidFirst Bank Shot Contest is an integral part of the Thunder game experience and creates a tremendous amount of excitement to the already electric atmosphere,” the bank said in a statement. “MidFirst is proud to be a part of something that has brought so much positive exposure to Oklahoma City, and to our great state.”