Controversy At FanDuel Sportsbook Leads To Questions, Concerns As NFL Season Nears

FanDuel’s payout problems continued to draw attention more than 24 hours following the sportsbook’s inability to cash all winning tickets Wednesday morning.

A representative from the DFS brand operating the FanDuel Sportsbook at the Meadowlands Racetrack noted the tickets were paid a day later after the book reopened. However, no changes to operating hours or payout procedures are in the works.

The payouts that occurred after operating hours remained a topic of multiple articles and Twitter conversations among the sports betting community.

The city never sleeps, but the sportsbooks do

Sixteen innings of Major League Baseball in Philadelphia was a sweet win for the Phillies but left some bettors in East Rutherford bitter.

FanDuel Sportsbook closed its vault at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, leaving some customers unable to cash tickets. Some who had winning tickets from the Phillies-Dodgers game and other contests that ended after operating hours were instructed to bring back their tickets later. However, others were paid after the game ended at about 1:15 a.m., according to reports.

Some fans left disgruntled and took their umbrage to social media, suggesting the book was short on cash.

In response, FanDuel released this statement Wednesday afternoon:

“The FanDuel Sportsbook’s business hours of operation last night were to 1 AM, as clearly posted throughout the facility. Once 1 AM hits, our cages are closed.  We cannot take wagers or pay out wagers after that time. To be clear, there was no issue with cash on hand. All customers are welcome to return today to collect any winnings, or to mail in any winning tickets for payment.”

Extra innings and opening hours

The Phillies-Dodgers game saw a 14-minute rain delay before the first pitch, followed by 16 innings of baseball between two first-place teams.

Deadlocked at four runs until Trevor Plouffe’s 3-run homer against Kike Hernandez, those fans who had the favored Phillies and Over 8 sweated out inning after inning of offensive futility as Tuesday night became Wednesday morning.

Since opening on July 14 (a month ahead of schedule), things have gone swimmingly for the new partnership. The closest legal sportsbook to the biggest market in the nation eclipsed $1 million in bets in their first weekend and has handled more than $3 million since opening.

Late hours were considered before the book opened. FanDuel Sportsbook operates until 1 a.m. Sundays-Thursdays and until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Those operating hours might be tested this fall when college football and pro football kicks into gear.

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Why does the FanDuel Sportsbook hiccup matter?

Anyone who’s visited a racetrack or sportsbook in another state knows what a pain it can be if you have a winning ticket but not the opportunity to cash it.

An early flight out of town means it may be weeks or months before winning tickets can get paid if you don’t lose it first. Mailing in the ticket creates another set of risks that some bettors would prefer to avoid.

Those options may be deterrents for bettors that New Jersey and other states wish to lure from underground, illegal books.

Opening sportsbooks in casinos that run games all night can create some other logistical problems.

The Borgata Race & Sports Book, for example, opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 11:30 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and midnight Fridays and Saturdays. The book stops taking bets 30 minutes before closing. Guests who check out early may leave with their tickets and not get a chance to redeem it immediately.

Some fans have already complained about that limited accessibility:

All the attention, all the what-ifs

FanDuel Sportsbook is primed to draw visitors from around the world with its location to New York City. “The City That Never Sleeps” isn’t just a clever marketing slogan. Bars are open until 4 a.m. and shops stay open hours later than in other locations, creating a specific mindset and expectations.

Visitors who can access virtually anything they desire at all hours may be frustrated by the early closing of the sportsbook.

To those who have followed the progress of legislation and the beginning of this new frontier, optics and communication with this incident magnify the problem and how far the books have to go.

This was a midweek baseball game in July. It was the Phillies in North Jersey, not South Jersey. The few winning tickets could have been far more if it were Yankees-Red Sox or a marquee NFL matchup in the fall.

Just a wrinkle to be ironed out

No reports have come out suggesting the FanDuel staff notified players they may have to leave with their tickets as the innings piled up. For a book that opened a month before initially planned, this is a growing pain but this one could hurt more than others.

The NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement has not commented on the situation. It’s not certain they’ll release a formal report either.

However, as the summer days roll by and NJ sports betting gets bigger and bigger, this is not the time to be idle. Two weeks from now will be the full start of the NFL preseason. Interest, money, and scrutiny will multiply. This will test the preparedness of the sportsbooks and the state’s oversight.

The success of these endeavors and the proliferation of legal sports betting in the Garden State and elsewhere may depend upon the first weekends of August and September.

If this incident creates new logistics and better communications, that could do a lot to win new supporters and customers. If so, we’ll recall that old Springsteen lyric: “One day we’ll look back at this and it will all seem funny.”

About the Author

Marco Cerino

Marco Cerino is a 2007 graduate from the University of Pennsylvania and a 2017 graduate from the Masters program at Temple University. A freelance writer based in South Jersey, he's worked in sports at the minor and major league levels. He now covers the NJ online gambling industry.