The New Jersey DraftKings Sports Betting National Championship was meant to be a celebration. It was a time to toast the future of sports betting. The sports betting championship was a historical event, the first of its kind to take place after the Supreme Court ruling in May ending the federal ban on sports betting. And the first-ever winner of the historical DraftKings Championship was Randy Lee – a New Jersey poker dealer – who took home the winnings in his bankroll, plus an additional $1 million first place prize.
Winning over $1 million is a reason to celebrate, to say the least. But rather than ending in the clinking of champagne glasses, the Championship ended in frustration. Professional sports bettors and other participants cried foul after an early Championship leader was unable to place his final wager before the kickoff of the NFC divisional-round game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New Orleans Saints.
The DraftKings Sports Betting Championship
The DraftKings Sports Betting Championship was a unique event in the gaming world, as the Championship took place entirely on the DraftKings Sportsbook’s mobile app. Championship required bettors using the app to be physically present in the State of New Jersey. The contested featured a $2.5 million prize pool, with a $10,000 buy in.
At first, the event looked like a success. More than 200 bettors from all across the nation traveled to the New Jersey DraftKings Sportsbook to pay their $10k buy in and enter into the 3-day contest. Things were moving along smoothly on both Friday and Saturday of the competition. Betters were allowed to bet on pretty much anything they wanted, with the exception of the last day of the competition. On Sunday, gamblers could only bet on the two NFL playoff games. And since the DraftKings Sportsbook was scheduled to stop accepting wagers after the start of the second game, plenty of participants were confused by the event.
Sports Betting Competition Closes in Controversy
It wasn’t the bets that were placed that lead to the notion of foul play at the DraftKings Championship, but rather those that were prevented from being placed.
Professional sports bettor Rufus Peabody was in the lead on the third day of the Championship. Things were looking good for the professional sports bettor, as he was on a winning streak. Peabody was in pole position heading into the final bet of the contest, and was weighing his options to place an all-in wager on the last play of the night. It looked like he was set to win. But his chances were squashed when the first game ended at 4:37pm, just minutes before the Eagles-Saints game. Under normal circumstances, a few minutes would be plenty of time to place a quick wager. However, the Championship leaders account never updated with the latest funds before the start of the second game.
As a result of the wager cutoff, Peabody was prevented from placing a wager on the final play. Peabody’s 50/50 chance at the $1 million payoff was crushed, pushing the professional sports bettor to publicize his experience by tweeting a picture of his account balance right before the second game commenced.
To make matters worse, apparently Peabody wasn’t the only gambler to be excluded from placing a wager on the second game. According to Peabody’s Twitter accounts, at least three other top-seven finishers were unable to place wagers before the Eagles-Saints game due to the same problem. All in all, the issue cast a dark shadow over an otherwise incredible win. Hopefully, the DraftKings event will serve as a warning to other organizations looking to cash-in on organized sports betting events: make it fun, and make it fair.