Sports Betting National Championship Ends in Controversy
DraftKings Sports Betting National Championship was rocked with controversy on Sunday when the contestant in 1st place heading into the final bet was barred from making a wager. The contestant lost a chance to secure a $1 million prize due to a glitch in the system.
The Sports Betting National Championship is similar to daily fantasy sports contests DraftKings has used in the past. Each contestant pays a $10,000 entry fee, then receives $5,000 in contest cash to make their wagers. Each player is required to make five wagers throughout the weekend, including one on Friday, two on Saturday, and two on Sunday.
In the case of this last weekend’s DraftKings contest, contestants were required to make wagers on the two games on Sunday: The Los Angeles Chargers visiting the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles visiting the New Orleans Saints.
At the end of the weekend, the sports bettors who still have bankrolls keep whatever cash they have left. Those at the top of the leaderboard receive a guaranteed total of $2.5 million, with the 1st place prize being $1 million.
Rufus Peabody Loses Shot at $1 Million
A contestant with the username rleejr86 made a final bet of $47,500 to boost his or her earnings to $101,474. That was enough for rleejr86 to take 1st place and win the $1,000,000 grand prize in the contest.
Rufus Peabody, a professional sports bettor with the username Opti5624, had a bankroll of almost $82,000 heading into Sunday’s NFC Championship Game between the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles. A winning bet of $20,000 would have been enough to hand Mr. Peabody the million-dollar prize.
How Opti5624 Was in 1st Place
Peabody had achieved first place by winning a double-or-nothing bet on the New England Patriots in the first game. The Patriots were -3.5 favorites against the Los Angeles Chargers in the 1pm EST game on Sunday. The Patriots won the game 41-28, boosting Peabody’s total ahead of everyone else in the championship.
Unfortunately for Opti5624, the funds from the fourth leg in the contest were not released to his account before the Saints-Eagles game reached kickoff. The NFL staggers the schedule in the playoff rounds, so most games end 30 to 45 minutes before the next game on the schedule.
The Patriots-Chargers game ended close to the Saints-Eagles kickoff, but DraftKings had plenty of time to process wagers and allow contestants to bet their full bankroll on the final contest, which many would have done. Rufus Peabody has a total of $0 at kickoff, so he was unable to make a wager at all. (His nearly $82k was returned to his account after the game started.)
How Peabody Was Unable to Make a Bet
Rufus Peabody, the co-founder of Massey-Peabody (football analytics) and a onetime ESPN employee, said to ESPN’s Chalk, “I had spent the last 2.5 hours running over all the numbers.”
“And, as it goes at the end, I was going back and forth: ‘Which one am I going to do? Am I going to pull the trigger?’ It was going to be a Saints bet of some kind or the under. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance.”
DraftKings Statement on Sports Betting National Championship
James Chisolm, a DraftKings spokesman, released a statement on the controversy: “We recognize that in the rules the scheduled end of betting [kickoff of the NFC divisional-round game] coincided very closely to the finish of the of Patriots-Chargers game.”
“While we must follow our contest rules, we sincerely apologize for the experience several customers had where their bets were not graded in time to allow wagering on the Saints-Eagles game. We will learn from this experience and improve upon the rules and experience for future events.”
DraftKings Sports Betting National Championship
Prior to the contest’s launch, DraftKings had touted the sports betting tournament as a good betting prospect for bettors. The guaranteed prize pool of $2.5 million needed approximately 500 entries in order to break even, given the fact many would win back some of their cash.
By Tuesday of last week, only 140 contestants had paid the $10,000 entry fee, producing a potential overlay. DraftKings mentioned this in public statements, hoping to drive high rollers to enter the contest. It still is not known how many entered, though one can assume DraftKings took a loss on the championship.
Now, it appears DraftKings took a loss and a public relations hit.