FanDuel Turns Bad Publicity Into Good With $82K Sports Betting Payout

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In a remarkable twist, the FanDuel Sportsbook at the Meadowlands Racetrack has agreed to pay out an $82,000 bet made on Sunday that it likely would have been within its rights to void, following an avalanche of negative publicity.

Anthony Prince of Newark put up $110 to win that payoff, which came because of wildly inaccurate in-game betting odds late in Denver’s 20-19 win over Oakland. With the Broncos having just completed a 26-yard pass in the final minute, they were in position to win by making a mere 36-yard field goal — only three yards longer than an extra point.

The odds on Denver to win at that point, FanDuel said, should have been -600 — that is, bet $600 to make a $100 profit, because the field goal was so likely. Instead, a glitch for 18 seconds offered the Broncos +75000 — an absurd betting line that Prince deftly exploited.

(How bad was the avalanche of bad publicity? Even GolfDigest.com had a story up.)

Do the right thing?

There are provisions of the state’s gambling laws that seemed to be on the side of FanDuel, but what may be technically right might not be best for the company. My Gamble On podcast partner Eric Raskin and I discussed the “bad optics” earlier on Thursday, before a chat with former New Jersey State Senator Ray Lesniak.

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At dinnertime on Thursday came this turnabout by FanDuel:

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.

“We are committed to ensuring sports betting is reliable and fun for everyone, and we don’t want an eighteen second error to define anyone’s experience. So let’s have fun. This weekend, we’re giving away $82,000 to our customers, by adding $1,000 to the account of 82 lucky users. Any person who has a FanDuel Sportsbook online account as of 10AM ET this Sunday will be eligible for random selection.”

Everybody wins

As the FanDuel statement suggests, Prince was not the lone victim-turned-victor here. For example, two other bettors came forward saying their shared account on the FanDuel sports betting app initially showed a payout of $56,000, only to see the money disappear on Monday morning. Now they’re getting paid too.

State Division of Gaming Enforcement Director David Rebuck, who would have been tasked to review a dispute such as this, presumably was satisfied. The DGE statement:

“DGE is encouraged by FanDuel’s actions today. 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.”

A lot can change in two days. This was FanDuel’s position on Tuesday night:

“The wager in question involved an obvious pricing error inadvertently generated by our in-game pricing system. Specifically, near the end of the Sunday afternoon game between the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders, the odds for the Broncos (who had the ball and were trailing by two points at the time) to win were +340 (bet $100 to win $340). The next play, the Broncos completed a 26 yard pass to position themselves to attempt a 36 yard field goal to take the lead in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, clearly positioning the Broncos as the favorite to win.

“At that moment in the game, our system updated the odds and erroneously posted a price of +75,000 on the Broncos to win the game (bet $100 to win $75,000) when the correct odds for the Broncos to win the game at that point in time were -600 (i.e., bet $600 to win $100). A small number of bets were made at the erroneous price over an 18 second period. We honored all such bets on the Broncos to win the game at the accurate market price in accordance with our house rules and industry practice, which specifically address such obvious pricing errors. We have reached out to all impacted customers and apologized for the error.”

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John Brennan

John Brennan has covered NJ and NY sports business and gaming since 2002 and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in 2008, while reporting for The Bergen County Record.

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