It was inevitable to foresee an upcoming ugly name-calling match breakout from new licensed and regulated U.S. sportsbooks against long-time predecessors in the offshore wagering world. What was not predicted was the specific way U.S. states would sabotage their own cause in practicing what they often falsely accuse offshore books of.
Several loyal bettors in both New Jersey and Indiana are still waiting almost a month to cash tickets on soccer bets held 'at the windows' by well known sportsbook FanDuel. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) has been involved reviewing the matter. The crux of the dispute is centered on the odds FanDuel offered and whether the prices posted were the result of a clerical error or possibly some still unknown reason to be investigated.
What is official is not only irate customers holding very legitimate winning tickets, but other new FanDuel customers worried they could fall upon a similar fate for any other future game. Add to that a huge pot of experienced sports bettors nervous they may not benefit by one of the heaviest promoted advantages offered by burgeoning American wagering companies. That is, "guaranteed instant payment" for all winning wagers with no worry or disputes. Quick, instant access to funds that might have befallen bettors at some offshore sportsbooks in the past.
For three days in mid-July bettors at FanDuel books in Indiana and New Jersey targeted soccer games in MLS, the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A. This occurred two weeks before Major League Baseball began and NBA games resumed. Thousands of dollars were wagered on the games over a four-day span with a potential payout of more than $200,000. Almost all the bets won, however bettors reported that they had not been paid or refunded the amounts they wagered.
According to ESPN sources, one clever bettor, Daniel Leavey from Long Island, NY took full advantage of what seemed was poor judgement from FanDuel bookmakers in doubling down on his original wagering intent. He visited the Meadowlands sportsbook in New Jersey on July 12th to play FS Cincinnati +0.5 goals vs. Atlanta United in an MLS soccer match.
Approaching the onsite counter, Leavey wagered $5,360 on Cincinnati at the price offered. Upon receiving approval from the supervisor, the teller subsequently offered Leavey the opportunity to make another bet of a similar size on Cincinnati. Assuming a great opportunity, Leavey placed another $4,640 on Cincinnati +0.5 goals. Cincinnati outright won the game 1-0.
Following his big win, Leavey returned to the Meadowlands sportsbook on July 16th to cash his tickets, but was told by FanDuel staff that the bets were being withheld. A FanDuel representative disclosed he would receive a call when the issue was resolved. As of the date of this writing there has been no confirmation the issue has been cleared. At the same time, the DGE has declined comment.
At the same time another experienced bettor in Indiana sensed the same opportunity and took total advantage, possibly with a more strategic plan. Their wagers were conducted on the self-serve kiosks in the Indiana casino and were scheduled to pay off the Cincinnati +0.5 potential win for approximately $60,000.
Before the bettor in Indiana returned to cash his tickets, they were voided by FanDuel while attempting to reach the bettor by phone. According to their rules, Indiana Gaming Commission regulations allow sportsbooks to cancel wagers "in the event of obvious error, at the certificate holder's or vendor's discretion."
FanDuel's house rules state that it "makes every effort to ensure that it does not make any errors when accepting bets," but in the case that a bet is accepted at odds "materially different from those available in the general betting market at the time the bet was made; or clearly incorrect given the chance of the event occurring at the time" that the sportsbook reserves the right to settle winning bets at the "correct price as reasonably determined by FanDuel Sportsbook or void any bet placed where such errors have occurred."
Translated, that is legal verbiage that says that if WE (FanDuel) do make an honest mistake in posting odds at a ridiculous price, we have legal jurisdiction to correct it before you are potentially paid.
Ironically, this clearly proves a case I made only a few weeks ago that it is extremely important for all bettors to read their sportsbooks rules before they play. Kind of like that fine print we wished we would have read after signing an important contract. Especially in these Coronovirus times, it is urgent to know what you are getting into before signing up.
FanDuel Déjà vu
This is not the first time sportsbook giant FanDuel hasn't lived up to the "sleep safe at night, honest and reliable" code they want to champion as part of the new wagering options for American bettors.
While first promoting NFL Live Wagering in September 2018, they made an "erroneous error" in a game between the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos. FanDuel attempted to update its live odds to reflect the Broncos as -600 favorites. A computer glitch occurred, resulted in Denver being offered as a +75,000 underdog. The mistake only lasted for 18 seconds, but it was enough time for twelve bets to be placed on the Broncos. They held out payment in that case, but lost their appeal to the NJ DGE, costing them $200,000.
From there, it is reasonable to surmise why FanDuel has instituted roughly 10,000 rules to their website. Reading through them is more exhausting and difficult to interpret than our U.S. Constitution.
Strike Out in Nevada
While not simply placing the big finger on FanDuel, we do not have to go back extremely far to remember another casino giant not playing exactly fair with their customers.
It was only about a month ago, the Nevada Gaming Control ruled in favor of the BetMGM (Roar Digital) sportsbook in the case of bettors taking advantage of wagers conducted after Korean baseball games had begun. Also known as 'past-posting', bettors made several parlay bets in the wee hours between 1:30AM and 3:30AM PST on self-serve kiosks at the Bellagio in Las Vegas after KBO League and Chinese Pro Baseball League games had started. Like the case in New Jersey, it was simply wise bettors taking advantage of bookmaker error.
What made this situation worse is there was no standing or printed rule from either BetMGM or the Nevada Gaming Control dictating past-posting. The large amounts wagered on such an obscure event like Korean baseball in the middle of the night raised the red flag. Also combined with the evidence that most all wagers were parlays.
The unfair judgement and very unpopular decision allowed BetMGM to simply return the wagers to the bet holders, but voided over $250,000 in potential winnings they would have owed.
Quite simply, if these so called ethical and honest new sportsbooks in the United States expect to gain the trust and loyalty they promise their customers it’s time to put down the iron rule book and open up the book of reality.
Many experienced customers (like those in New Jersey and Indiana) have plenty of competitive options now to place their sports wagers. They include sticking with several long-standing online sportsbooks who do not have a history of denying customers after winning wagers nor thousands of *asterisk-laden rules attached to their betting guidelines.
In the case of both FanDuel and the MGM it was simply human error. Not any preconceived cheating nor sports-related scandal. We have never been in a pandemic before and relied on Russian ping pong, soccer, and Korean baseball to satisfy our sports wagering hunger.
Think of it like that old Monopoly Community Chest card that reads "bank error in your favor, collect $200". In the short run these mistakes do cost the sportsbooks some money. But in the long run, the bad publicity that gets back to the smart betting public will cost them a great deal more.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, including previews and picks from Glenn, click here.