DraftKings Rolls Out Sports Betting National Championship Across Multiple States, Hopes To Avoid Controversy

DraftKings is staging the 2021 Sports Betting National Championship next month, and this time the event will be national in scope. Hopefully, controversy will be absent from this year’s version of the competition.

In 2019, contestants in the inaugural contest had to be within New Jersey state lines. While Thursday’s announcement of the contest listed seven states (Arizona, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wyoming), three more (Virginia, Iowa, and Michigan) came aboard Friday, DraftKings Director of Race & Sportsbook Operations Johnny Avello told Gaming Today. The company had not yet received approval to offer the contest in Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, or West Virginia.

Avello wouldn’t try to peg the number of overall contestants he anticipates, but he’s pumped about the potential numbers all these states can bring.

“The reason I’m excited about some of those Western states is that if people can’t make it across the country from California and Nevada then they can go to Arizona,” Avello said. “All you have to do is be in the boundaries of (an eligible) state to play.”

The 2021 Sports Betting National Championship is set for November 5-7. The winner will take home $1 million from a guaranteed prize pool of $2 million. There is a $10,000 entry fee with $5,000 earmarked for the pool. Players will begin with a bankroll of $4,500 after a $500 administrative fee for DraftKings. Contest wagering will be on NFL, CFB, and NBA games only this time around.

2019 DraftKings Controversy

Memories surrounding the 2019 contest linger after some contestants did not have their bets on the Chargers-Patriots playoff game graded in time to roll their winnings over to the NFC playoff game that followed. Professional sports bettor Rufus Peabody was among those unfortunate competitors.

Peabody looked like a probable winner of the $1 million top prize, but he was unable to bet the final game of the contest, Eagles vs. Saints.

The contest rules stipulated then and now that DraftKings is not responsible in those situations, according to Avello. The company has also taken steps to avoid such problems with the 2021 contest.

“It really wasn’t any fault of ours, it was just that the two games were too close together,” Avello said. “What have we done for this contest? First of all, there’s not (only) two games (Sunday). There’s the whole morning slate and then there’s a 1:05 (p.m. PT) game, which could be a little difficult if some of the games don’t end in time. But there’s some 1:25s, and we’re going even deeper that night with two NBA games.”

Peabody, co-founder of Unabated Sports and co-host of the “Bet the Process” podcast, is currently spending time in New York City and said he’s unsure if he’ll enter this year’s event. It would only require a short trip across the border to New Jersey.

“If they cut me an entry, I probably will,” he said. “If I reached out, I think there’s a chance they would given what happened last time.”

He added, “I’m over it. It’s not fun to think about. I wasn’t happy about what happened, but you move on.”

“I definitely feel for him,” Avello said of Peabody. “There’s no doubt about it. He got the worst of that.”

Peabody said there was no settlement after the outcome in 2019, but DraftKings contacted his attorney by phone and offered compensation just before a class action lawsuit was filed against DraftKings.

“They made a verbal offer of $300,000 to my lawyer and then an hour later pretended they never had,” Peabody said.

Collusion Course?

Peabody said a big overlay (when the guaranteed prize money exceeds the entry fees) may motivate him to enter this year’s contest, but he is concerned about the possibility of collusion. He said he was approached to join forces with a group that had about 20 entries in last year’s event before it was cancelled.

“I’m not going to go in and be a part of a team with multiple entries because that’s against the terms of service, and I wouldn’t want to do that,” he said. “My main concern is there’s going to be a massive amount of collusion, probably. I just wish there was a better way to police that.”

Avello said potential colluders are on DraftKings’ radar.

“100 percent, we’re looking for that,” the bookmaker said. “It’s in the rules you can’t do it, and if we catch you doing it, you can forfeit everything. There’s various ways it can be done. Some of the stuff may be a little hard to detect, but believe me, we’re gonna try our hardest to see if it’s happening at all.”

About the Author
Kris Johnson

Kris Johnson

Senior Writer
Kris Johnson is a senior writer at Gaming Today with more than 15 years of experience as a sports journalist. Johnson's work has appeared in Sports Business Daily, Sports Business Journal, NASCAR Illustrated, and other publications. He also authored a sports betting novel titled The Endgame.

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