Cover The Spread: PA Needs to Learn From FanDuel’s Glitchy Mistake

Written By Grant Lucas on September 27, 2018
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Surely everyone had friends whom they sat near in class growing up. A friend who, during pop quizzes, would discreetly position themselves so as to leave their answers within sight. Friends who looked out for companions during desperate times of “holy cow I don’t know any answers to these problems.”

Right now, New Jersey — particularly FanDuel Sportsbook — is that friend making quiz answers available to his at-sea buddy, Pennsylvania.

Fortunately for the Keystone State, the Commonwealth’s exam gets graded after FanDuel’s. Plus, Pennsylvania has the advantage of reading the reactions of the test proctor before determining if FanDuel’s initial answers are correct.

In the case of sports betting, PA has prime position to avoid gaffes as FanDuel has faced recently.

Two weeks ago, during Week 3 of the NFL season, a “glitch” in the NJ sportsbook’s in-play betting system resulted in juiced odds. In a span of 18 seconds, FanDuel said later, several bettors wagered on the Denver Broncos. The team was trailing by two points with possession and over a minute left in regulation, at 750/1 odds. After Denver booted a game-winning field goal, one customer turned $110 into $82,000 in winnings. FanDuel initially refused to pay. After several days of public ridicule and in a Hail Mary of a PR move, FanDuel agreed to dole out the full winnings to all parties.

Now, Pennsylvania has an opportunity to better shape its sports betting structure, specifically in three areas, with lessons learned from FanDuel.

Lesson 1: Clear regulations and procedures

Interestingly, FanDuel did not have to open its wallet. Per NJ regulations, the sportsbook must post house rules throughout the facility and have more readily available.

Among the house rules, which are approved by the state’s 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.”

Additionally, the DGE laid out a stipulation seemingly addressing such matters:

“A wagering operator shall not unilaterally rescind any wager pursuant to this chapter without the prior approval of the Division.”

Obviously Pennsylvania, via the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, will feature its own set of sports betting regulations. Similar to New Jersey, each activated sportsbook likely will have house rules for patrons to oblige.

Language should be clear. It should be conspicuous. It should leave no room for interpretation should, God forbid, issues arise.

And along those lines sits another teaching point…

Lesson 2: Educate the people

Having those regulations is one matter, relaying them to the public and educating the people is another. FanDuel essentially said as much in its announcement to cover the erroneous tickets:

“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. … 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.”

Summed up: the knowledgeable groups of bettors know the industry and its rules. But sports betting, legalized sports betting, is not a universally understood industry. Many are still learning, wanting to learn. That, apparently, was FanDuel’s mistake: assuming its entire clientele comprised savvy bettors.

Some form of Sports Betting 101 should be available to everyone. The dos and don’ts of the industry. The whys and how-comes. Most common questions and concerns, those that drive customers to Twitter to lambaste sportsbooks, should be addressed before those customers place their first wagers.

That is what FanDuel has learned. That is what everyone learned from FanDuel.

So take heed, upcoming Pennsylvania sportsbooks. As Malcolm X said: “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

Lesson 3: Better training, focused ticket approval

A quick recap of how the most notorious ticket went issued at FanDuel Sportsbook:

With just over a minute left in the Broncos’ game, a patron approached the ticket counter to place a bet. He took Denver to win. He laid $110. The betting slip was issued. The patron walked away. That microscopic moment in time, lasting only a few seconds, has since shed new light on how tickets should be approved.

In its statement, FanDuel cited a “glitch” in the system, implying little to no human involvement other than issuing the betting slip. Perhaps, at least at Pennsylvania sportsbooks, more should exist. At least on the back end.

Certainly, the more time spend approving of a ticket results in few wagers getting accepted. But how much time is needed for a quick scan?

Consider this, after taking payment and printing the ticket: the employee reads the slip aloud.

“Bet is $110,” an employee would read, “on Denver to win at 750/1 odds. No. That can’t be right.”

Obviously, this could be a dramatization, but you get the gist. Errors could be noticed more easily and, thus, resolved before making headlines the following day for all the wrong reasons.

The power of neighboring a state with legalized sports betting, as noted here not long ago, is studying how its regulatory system operates and adopting or amending certain things for your own framework.

Plenty of takeaways exist from FanDuel alone. For Pennsylvania, specifically the PGCB and its sportsbooks-to-be, all that’s needed is a keen eye, diligent note-taking, and proper studying so as not to be at sea when the pop quiz hits the desk.

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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sportswriter who has covered the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield, and Oregon State athletics and the Portland Trail Blazers throughout his career.

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