Murphy’s Law rears its ugly head

The growth of the US sports betting industry is exciting for casinos and bettors alike, but with that growth comes the inevitable growing pains. On Super Bowl Sunday, the biggest betting day of the year, several sportsbooks ran into technical problems, mostly stemming from the volume of wagers they experienced.

Kambi, the company that handles the backend for Barstool Sports, BetRivers, and DraftKings, had issues in the hour before kickoff, causing problems for customers trying to place bets. A spokesperson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that it wasn’t an overall volume problem, but rather a problem with a specific bet the sportsbooks were offering. This bet required a “higher-than-normal technical capacity,” and that, combined with high volumes, led to validation backlogs.

DraftKings put out a tweet to let customers know what was going on, emphasizing that anything that was handled in-house, including its daily fantasy sports and pools products, was working just fine. Customers trying to place bets and check their betting histories were running into the roadblocks.

FanDuel tweeted about 45 minutes before kickoffs that customers in Michigan and Illinois were having trouble logging in and placing bets, but gave no further details.

BetMGM had arguably the worst night, as its mobile app and retail kiosks went down DURING the Super Bowl, causing headaches for customers who wanted to place in-game bets and collect on first half bets and props. According to local reports, police had to be dispatched to some Las Vegas MGM properties to make sure upset customers didn’t get out of hand.

Online bets were finally settled several hours later. To its credit, MGM kept its retail books in Nevada open until 1:00am Monday to try to get all bets settled. It reopened at 7:00am to pick up where it left off.

Does it matter in the long run?

Industry insiders have mixed opinions on how the hiccups will affect the betting companies going forward. Brendan Bussmann, director of government affairs for Global Market Advisors, told the Review-Journal, “It was a fumble by the industry that left some money on the table. It could potentially sway some people on which platform they play on.”

But Sarah Slane, founder of Slane Advisory and former senior vice president of the American Gaming Association, doesn’t think it will be a big deal.

“A lot of operators view (Super Bowl Sunday) as a marketing took to hopefully gain new customers year-round or on other events,” Slane said. “While there were difficulties … these guys are real savvy and customer-focused, and they’ll hopefully be able to go back there and smooth over any problems.”

While forecasts were that the COVID-19 pandemic would depress the overall global betting on the Super Bowl, the outlook was rosier for the United States. With seven more states having launched sports betting industries since the previous Super Bowl, Eilers and Krejcik Gaming estimated that bettors would place $615 million in legal wagers at US-based online and land-based sports books for Super Bowl LV, an American record.

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