DraftKings Sports Betting National Championship Marred By Controversy Again

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WEEHAWKEN, N.J. — The 2021 DraftKings Sports Betting National Championship was filled with drama this weekend after the inaugural event in 2019 was marked by controversy.

Pro bettors eagerly prepared to get off to a hot start on Friday, but some were upended by account limits that had the industry in a stir. Curiously, some bettors couldn’t even place bets despite the hefty $4,500 starting bankroll.

After speaking with many participants, the overall consensus was that technical difficulties proved to be the reason that some bettors couldn’t wager even $1. The solution that DraftKings came up with was swift with participants receiving a refund of the their $10,000 contest entry fee. The event became a free-roll and participants banked a free $4,500 to play with based on their starting bankroll ($5,000 of the entry fee went to the overall pool and DraftKings took a $500 admin fee).

At mid-day on Saturday, the leader — known just as “TDunns” for his username — had a bankroll of $29,107.89. The eventual winner will be paid $1 million from DraftKings. Despite the happy ending for players, questions remained as to the problems that plagued this contest. To get answers, I sat down with the top bookmaker at DraftKings, Johnny Avello, to discuss the bizarre events that led to the company taking a $2 million-plus hit on the event.

The Decision To Make The Tournament A Free-Roll

Avello was quick to make a decision on the free-roll.

“I couldn’t think of any reason why we wouldn’t (do it),” he said. “We want to make sure that the customers are satisfied and that we are a consumer-friendly company.”

Understandably, customers were upset on Friday when they were unable to place bets. One player told me his plan was to go all-in immediately on Friday by betting UNDER 47.5 on Virginia Tech vs. Boston College. The bet was rejected citing “exceeded betting limits” and the total would have easily gone under at 20 total points.

Avello noted that technical issues were ultimately at the heart of the problem.

“We understood that there were issues because everyone was unable to get bets down properly across the board,” he said.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this situation relates to betting limits in the industry as a whole. Avello was forthcoming with his answers to questions related to risk management as a bookmaker. He was adamant that one bettor does not have different limits than anyone else.

“Here’s the thing about limits,” he said. “Let’s say that you want to bet $10,000 on a market but only get approved for two or three thousand. We have the option to move the line, and if the line doesn’t move, you can bet again.”

The Future Of The Sports Betting National Championship

Further discussions are needed to decide whether DraftKings will try to stage this tournament again, according to Avello. The 2019 contest was also marred by controversy.

One anonymous participant had a suggestion or two for DraftKings when it comes to late entries and betting limits.

“Registration needs to close when the tournament starts,” he said. “Late entrants into the tournament raise questions of overlay sharking and groups of players waiting to take advantage.”

He added, “There needs to be no betting limits or clearly defined ones for anyone that is looking to bet. If there is a $2,000 limit on parlays, that’s fine, but we need to know that well ahead of time.”

Overall, the event could be deemed a success for participants because they’re up $4,500 from where they were prior to the contest. 

About the Author
Erich Richter

Erich Richter

Erich is a New York-based writer and gambling expert specializing in the sports industry. His work is featured in numerous publications. Erich is a diehard Mets, Giants, and Knicks fan (it’s been tough). Twitter: @erichterrr

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