It wasn’t the best week of publicity for FanDuel Sportsbook.
Even with its decision to pay off erroneous sports betting slips from the Denver Broncos’ win Sept. 16 over the Oakland Raiders, the New Jersey sportsbook garnered the wrong kind of attention last week.
Yet FanDuel’s arduous seven days provides lessons for future NJ sports betting operations.
#1: Making good when it didn’t have to
A “glitch” within the in-game system at the Meadowlands Racetrack last Sunday allowed “a small number of bets,” according to FanDuel, to take the Broncos — down two points and with possession late in the game — to beat Oakland at 750/1 odds during an 18-second window.
The result was a handful of tickets cashing in on inexplicably juiced odds, including one bettor turning $110 into more than $82,000.
Initially, the sportsbook in East Rutherford refused to pay, justified, in a way, by FanDuel Sportsbook’s house rules, which were approved by the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement:
“FanDuel Sportsbook reserves the right to correct any obvious errors and to void any bets placed where such errors have occurred.”
Even DGE regulations address such an issue:
“A wagering operator shall not unilaterally rescind any wager pursuant to this chapter without the prior approval of the Division.”
After several days, FanDuel eventually made good on the tickets. But only after attracting the derision and contempt of the public.
FanDuel did not have to pay out winnings. But in a PR move, the sportsbook did so in order to maintain traction in an ever-growing regulated NJ market.
Recall that there are now eight online sportsbooks active in the state.
From FanDuel after announcing its decision to pay:
“Above all else, sports betting is supposed to be fun. As a result of a pricing error this weekend, it wasn’t for some of our customers. For eighteen seconds, bettors were offered odds paying out 750-1 on the Denver Broncos converting a 36 yard field goal. A 36 yard field goal has approximately an 85% chance of success, so the astronomical odds offered on something highly likely to occur was very obviously a pricing error. These kinds of issues are rare, but they do happen. We have clear house rules about how such obvious pricing errors are treated, which is to pay winners at the correct price.
“For those familiar with the industry these rules are understood, but we realize a lot of our customers are new to sports betting and were not familiar. We want FanDuel to be a sportsbook for all bettors, and we want sports betting to be fun. So, this one’s on the house. We are paying out these erroneous tickets and wish the lucky customers well. Going forward, we are working with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement to improve our processes and procedures. We will also work with others in the industry on educating bettors on these and similar instances and how they work.”
The PR move is sound, regardless of time lost. The intent was to avoid driving away future business while emphasizing the regulations in place in order to avoid setting precedent.
The lesson here: Educating the public about such situations, as FanDuel did in its statement, leads to a more-informed market.
#2: Stronger, clearer procedures in place
As noted above, FanDuel, in its statement, mentioned its desire to “work with others in the industry” to better educate bettors. Though that education should not be exclusive to the public.
As the DGE said in a statement to Legal Sports Report:
“The Division will continue to work with FanDuel and the State’s other licensed sports wagering operators to ensure the implementation of industry-wide best practices.”
FanDuel said it aims to collaborate with other operators as well as with the DGE to “improve our processes and procedures.”
How can we avoid such a PR disaster in the future, if God forbid, it happens again? How can we prevent such issues from arising again?
For FanDuel, and other sportsbook operators, that begins with examining the system and its algorithms that generate the lines. Of course, before even opening, those operations are examined by the state to ensure accuracy and credibility.
So here’s lesson number two: No harm comes from assessing the stability of the system again… and again… and again…
#3: Improved training and ticket approval
When this story first surfaced, a number of followers considered how much human involvement occurred in issuing the betting slips.
From FanDuel’s statement, we can infer that very little, if any, existed.
That said, at least at the ticket counters, those slips have to exchange hands somehow. Why not use that time of human interaction to again confirm the accuracy of the wager?
Of course, sportsbook employees endure a training process before hitting the facility floor. Perhaps, though, another aspect of that process needs to be instituted.
After all, when employees issue betting slips, it is vital that they are able to recognize any mistakes. Especially when it comes to events with long odds, the more eyes that scan the slip, the better.
Obviously, not everyone can spend as much time as they need to sign off on each ticket with 100 percent confidence. But as one style of teaching indicates, reading information out loud is a solid way to absorb information.
Say this procedure was in place last week. The wager is accepted, the slip is printed, and the employee picks it up and reads aloud: “Bet is $110 for the Broncos to win at +75,000…”
Think that “glitch” would be caught? The odds would be better.
The final lesson: Improved training and ticket approvals can mean the difference
This past week has certainly provided a number of lessons from which FanDuel and its colleagues can learn. But rest assured, there are plenty more takeaways.
Hopefully, at least from the perspective of the NJ sports betting industry, there won’t be much more to come.