Fanduel offers bullshit excuses for not paying for its own mistakes

Anthony Prince placed a $110 bet on FanDuel that, according to posted odds, should have paid off $82,000. But FanDuel said the odds were posted in error and wouldn’t pay. Now it’s paying what it should . . . but its statement allows it to weasel out of future similar payments. I call bullshit.

How Anthony Prince gamed the gaming system

Last Sunday, the NFL’s Denver Broncos played the Oakland Raiders. With a minute left in the game, the Broncos’ kicker was ready to attempt a 36-yard field goal to win the game. Anyone who knows football knows that NFL kickers rarely miss from that distance, but at the Meadowlands Racetrack, the FanDuel sportsbook offered 750-to-1 odds against the Broncos winning. Prince paid $110 for the 750-to-1 ticket and when the Broncos won, attempted to cash out for the $82,000 he was owed.

FanDuel initially refused to pay, saying that the odds were obviously in error and the bettor should have known that. So FanDuel offered to pay the bet at the correct odds, for a payout of $18.35. Then it tried to buy off Prince with $500 and a three tickets to New York Giants games. After Prince hired a lawyer, FanDuel finally agreed to pay the full $82,000 to him and a few other fans who made the same bet.

FanDuel’s lighthearted statement doesn’t get them off the hook

Here’s the statement FanDuel issued yesterday, with commentary and a translation from me. Notice how the statement repeatedly redefines “a chance to lose your money” as “fun.”

FanDuel Statement on Resolution of New Jersey Sports Betting Pricing Error

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.

Commentary: I think, for these bettors, a 750-1 payoff would definitely have been fun! It’s very nice for FanDuel to call this an obvious pricing error, but as this is written, it’s up to FanDuel to decide when to pay out and when not to. Doesn’t seem fair to me.

Translation: Above all, sports betting is supposed to be profitable for the house. For 18 seconds, we made a mistake. But we don’t need to pay for our mistakes, and it’s up to our bettors to figure out when we’re making them.

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.

Commentary: Not the passive “these rules are understood,” which avoids saying who is supposed to understand them (in this case, the bettors). “We want sports betting to be fun” is gaming industry doublespeak — companies that run sportsbooks are well aware that they are turning the bettor’s instincts that he can be smarter than the house into profits, because the house always wins. Except in this case, the bettor was smarter than the house, which had behaved very stupidly for 18 seconds. FanDuel is trying to have it both ways — paying out on this erroneous bet (to avoid the negative PR) and then refusing to pay out on future similar mistakes. The “improve our processes and procedures” and “work with others in the industry on educating bettors on these and similar instances” are pure doubletalk. The only thing you can be certain of is that FanDuel doesn’t want to set a precedent here.

Translation: We’ll pay these smart bettors even as we avoid responsibility for our own mistakes. When this happens again, though, the bettor will lose, because sports books always decide the rules and can be dishonest any time it suits them.

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. Wagering is permitted only while present in New Jersey. Full terms and conditions are available at www.sportsbook.fanduel.com. Good luck!

Commentary: Pure misdirection. This is $82,000 worth of promotion for the FanDuel SportsBook.

Translation: We’re randomly giving $82,000 away. We like randomness — at least when we can accurately compute the odds.

“Fun” is a weasel word

I’m continually finding new weasel words — meaningless and vague words that persuade. Now I can see that “fun” should be included.

When a company says that something will be fun, they’re after your wallet. There’s nothing wrong with this, but fun is never guaranteed. Gamblers who lose won’t usually call it “fun.”

At Las Vegas (and Fan Duel), the oddsmakers are smarter than you. Unless you have inside information (like, say, your friend is the orthopedist for the team’s quarterback and his balky knees), if you bet, you’re more likely to lose than to win.

If bettors make mistakes, they lose. The same ought to apply to sportsbooks like FanDuel. “The house always wins” is supposed to be the result of the house doing its job properly — not a guarantee from the gaming commission. If a sportsbook screws up, it should pay up, just like anybody else.

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