Bettors are skeptical of refunds and some betting decisions by new U.S sportsbooks
Whether bettors choose to label their sports wagering "legal or illegal", a very interesting recent survey confirms they choose to honor the time-honored code of wagering rules, spelled out over many years. Participants may also include those acknowledging the terms of street bookmakers, understood for decades.
The hot subject got started when two mainstream sports media journalists focused on gambling turned a few heads by exploring the topic of the New Jersey mobile sports betting sites refunding losing bets. Sports-business-reporter-turned-sports-gambling-reporter Darren Rovell of The Action Network was a guest on a recent Sports Illustrated Media Podcast with Jimmy Traina. He passionately complained about the practice of new "legal" sportsbooks refunding money on occasion following a high-profile, documented bad beat.
Traina seemed to feel that getting refunded on losses goes against the competitive spirit of sports betting. Insisting he’d rather continue betting at offshore books than deposit on regulated U.S. sportsbooks that don’t share his views on the sanctity of gambling wins and losses. Traina used descriptive terms like "amateur hour" and "shortsighted."
He went on to point out, "as a longtime gambler, I hate it," giving an example of New Jersey sports wagering book PointsBet refunding UCF money line bets after their near-miss against Duke in the second round of the NCAA tournament. "I’d never bet at a book that offers refunds because it makes me think they’re not a legit outlet. More importantly, though, the cherry picking of games for refunds is infuriating."
Though agreeing with him, Rovell was a bit less supportive. Much more important, the experienced and proactive wagering public asked to chime-in on Twitter were quite vocal. A bottom-line question was posed:
Do you like the idea of sports books giving back money to bettors who lost in games that were close calls, to further promote their business?— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) March 31, 2019
What makes this poll result so incredibly amazing is the sheer surprise of the outcome. Comparatively, what horse racing bettor would not accept a refund for his horse falling out of the gate. Or a black jack player receiving his money back for losing one hand with 20 to a dealer pulling a five card twenty-one with an up-card six. Overall, as the poll response overwhelming reflected, that’s why they call it GAMBLING.
Is FanDuel the Most Fan-Friendly?
Coinciding with New Jersey being thus far the largest U.S. state embracing U.S. sports wagering, FanDuel has made quite a splash at The Meadowlands sportsbook wagering facility. Though new customer onsite betting has been reasonable, almost 80% of sports wagering in the Garden State is currently done online, with FanDuel’s numbers echoing those results.
Still under debate, FanDuel has tried to build their reputation for goodwill following an unforeseen mistake in their software system early in its non-fantasy wagering existence. It occurred in September 2018 during a Denver Broncos-Oakland Raiders NFL game.
The company initially refused to pay off a $82,000 return for a $110 prop bet at the Meadowlands Racetrack, saying it isn’t obligated to pay for obvious system errors. But FanDuel reversed field after consulting with New Jersey state gambling regulators.
"Above all else, sports betting is supposed to be fun," the company said in a statement at that time. “As a result of a pricing error the past weekend, it wasn’t for some of our customers."
Kerry Langan, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, said the agency was encouraged by FanDuel’s actions. And the division would continue to work with FanDuel and the state’s other licensed sports wagering operators to ensure the implementation of industry-wide best practices.
Kip Levin, FanDuel’s chief operating officer, said the company wanted "to use this as a learning experience for our new customers about how sports betting works."
That could have meant, don’t ever expect this to happen again. Or perhaps please choose to play with us in possibility we’ll again grant a 750-1 payoff on a stated 6-1 bet. Either way one might interpret it, the company subsequently paid the customer the $82,000, using it as an early public relations platform.
Last week FanDuel cemented their 'fan friendly' image while promising to credit all bettors who had standing wagers on the suspended AAF (Alliance of American Football) Championship Game.
When the AAF announced last Tuesday that it would be suspending operations with two weeks remaining in its regular season, most U.S. sportsbooks moved to void all futures bets on the league champion, while others waited for official word. The FanDuel Sportsbook in New Jersey decided instead to turn the league’s collapse into a promo opportunity by paying out everyone who had placed a future bet on the AAF champion.
They said last week that all straight futures bets on who would emerge as the first AAF championship would be graded as winners, though bettors would receive credit for future bets rather than cash payouts. It could be part of a trivia question someday, as FanDuel also named the Orlando Apollos and their 7-1 record as honorary champions. Sounds much better than mythical or would-be champions, I suppose.
Some Experts Disagree
Not everyone believes that new burgeoning U.S. sportsbooks are setting the wrong precedent in changing traditional rules by offering wagering refunds as potential incentives. A signal to either enhance loyalty or possibly lure others from competitor books.
The key might be the application of how sports wagers are made. Many experienced people in the gaming industry are correctly fixated on the huge issue of onsite wagering vs. online wagering. The current New Jersey vs. New York market situation reflects a reasonable example.
At this juncture almost 80% of all sports wagers are being processed online, with that number growing. The giant New York metro market sits across the river with legal onsite betting reasonably possible at any New Jersey wagering facility. The only other option being an expensive, inconvenient trip for online wagering into NJ geolocation territory. Generously refunding customers at say, the Meadowlands or at an Atlantic City casino might be worth it overall to a casino or racetrack, for a variety of ancillary reasons.
What’s the Speed Limit?
The most crucial judgment here belongs to the bettors. From this one question, the only undeniable conclusion indicates we need more polls and more critical consumer information.
Sports bettors seem to be saying they want to absolutely know (and abide by) wagering rules in 'black and white'. A sportsbook or casino cannot arbitrarily decide on bad beats or make good on specific errors. Yes, there can be and should be individual appeals for justified reasons. But not universal "public relation" calls that smell of ulterior motives.
One of many great things about sports wagering (onsite OR online) is they don’t offer free seafood buffets or free rooms when you either hit a four-team parlay or lose 10K on a Sunday. If you want that, sit at the slots for twelve hours or make friends with the pit boss after signing two markers.
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.