A dangerous precedent has been set in the sports betting industry after a bookie made an astonishing decision following a $113,000 bet glitch.
Following a day of public outcry, New Jersey bookmaker FanDuel has completely flipped in its stance over a costly computer error, that led to one punter holding a betting slip worth AU$113,000, when it should have only been worth around $170.
On Thursday (AEST), FanDuel was doing its best to figure out how to not pay out NFL betting tickets on long-shot odds that it offered at a New Jersey race track, after a number of people capitalised on the error.
On Friday, after a discussion with state gambling regulators, FanDuel thought better of its refusal and backflipped, using the incident as a PR stunt but setting a dangerous precedent for the company and for the industry in America.
FanDuel stops fight after talking to regulators
The company announced Thursday that it plans to pay 12 bettors who bought tickets at 750-1 odds (a $100 bet pays $75,000) on the Denver Broncos with about a minute remaining in their game with the Oakland Raiders as they approached field goal range trailing 19-17.
Those odds, of course, are ridiculous. FanDuel calculated after the fact that the eventual game-winning 36-yard field goal by Brandon McManus had an 85 percent chance of being good and would have warranted minus-600 odds (A $600 bet pays $100).
Brandon McManus kick worth big payout for lucky bettors
One bettor, Kevin Prince, acted fast when he saw the odds and bought a AU$150 ticket during the 18-second window that FanDuel said the erroneous odds were available. Eleven other bettors did the same, but at lower rates.
Why none of these gamblers bet the house — or at least a significant portion of the house — is unknown.
Had he received minus-600 odds, Prince’s $150 bet would have netted a tidy $20 profit. Instead he was holding a ticket valued at $113,000.
When he went to the window at the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey, he was refused payment and offered a consolation prize of $700 and skybox seats to three New York Giants games.
Punter told FanDuel ‘not obligated to pay for glitches’
“They said their system had a glitch in it and they’re not obligated to pay for glitches,” Prince told News 12 in New Jersey. “The other guy said, ‘You should take what we give you because we don’t have to give you [anything] at all.’
I said, ‘Wow, for real?’ The government is taxing it now so I thought it would be a better situation. You’d rather go to the corner bookies now. You’re not getting paid here.”
Online bettors Mike Guerriero and Chris Calcano had a similar experience on Sunday when they won a payout of US$56,000 on the same bet that showed up electronically on their account that they shared with News 12.
The next day, that payout had been adjusted to the 1-6 odds FanDuel calculated for a profit of less than $20, according to News 12.
FanDuel reverses course
The disputes led to the New Jersey gaming commission getting involved. By Friday (AEST), FanDuel reversed course on its take that it wasn’t obligated to make payouts when obvious errors are involved.
FanDuel COO Kip Levin said that all 12 customers who made wagers on with the erroneous odds online or in person would be paid in full.
FanDuel spit out a public relations take upon its defeat and seized on a marketing opportunity by promising to pay out $1,000 to accounts of 82 randomly selected bettors this upcoming weekend.
“Above all else, sports betting is supposed to be fun,” a FanDuel statement on Thursday read. “As a result of a pricing error this weekend, it wasn’t for some of our customers.”
Above all else, sports betting is supposed to be hugely profitable for the bookmakers, of course. FanDuel should have been wise enough from the start to realising eating losses based on the erroneous odds they laid was the right call before being told by state regulators.
What was FanDuel thinking?
FanDuel, nor any other sports book, is going to be sympathetic to any obvious errors made by bookies at their windows. Betting is a two-way street.
And in an environment where sports betting has just become legal in several states, the last thing the industry needs is a major player refusing to pay out bets.
Fans divided over whether FanDuel should’ve paid out
Plenty of fans took to social media to blast FanDuel for not paying out the bet.
Just wow. FanDuel better make this right. Or regulators need to compel them to. You can't not pay someone because of a self-described glitch. This is not how regulated sports betting works. https://t.co/20zedW7bNp
— Dustin Gouker (@DustinGouker) September 18, 2018
Fanduel has to pay the guy who made the Broncos bet. If I make a bet and after like 30 seconds – during a live event – say "Wait, that was a mistake I want my money back" do they give me my money back?
— Jason Smith (@howaboutafresca) September 19, 2018
@FanDuel I hope you're inundated with frivolous lawsuits from bettors who have a "glitch" in "their" system when they place a losing wager. You would have happily taken his $110 if McManus missed that kick! Do what's right and eat the L. There's been 2 ties already, you're good!
— Spanky (@AndrewSpacke) September 19, 2018
Fanduel should pay. They are sitting on millions!
— Matt Brown (@chillinforreal) September 19, 2018
Others took the betting company’s side, most notably, SportsCenter host Scott Van Pelt. (Watch SVP’s full rant in the video at the top of the page).
It's a mistake. A glitch. If the IRS sends you a check for $273,812, you don't get to keep it. It's a mistake.
— Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakeSVP) September 18, 2018
Of course @notthefakeSVP has the correct take on this Fanduel error. Still amazed how many people are arguing he should get paid
— Tony Niehaus (@BigT44DFS) September 19, 2018
Exactly, people don't realize 1) fanduel's response is standard and generous and 2) if they paid out here then it would destroy the industry and really destroy their ability to do in-game betting if people are just going to attack clear mistakes like this one
— David John (@DFSSoapBox) September 19, 2018
Hey @notthefakeSVP I’m with you. Fanduel meadowlands shouldn’t pay the guy 82k. $500 and giants tickets were a generous offer. Casinos don’t pay out on glitches either.
— Bruce Jones (@brucejones13088) September 19, 2018
He’s right.. No way they pay $82k or should they.
— Vinny Gambardella (@vindog8484) September 19, 2018
With Yahoo Sports