Well, another issue has popped up at the Meadowlands with their sportsbook, and just like last time, disgruntled players are taking to social media to voice their displeasure in the public forum. The latest issue for the Fanduel branded sportsbook is a lack of cash to pay out players. Now, before anyone gets too worried, it wasn’t a situation where they didn’t have enough money to play players – it isn’t like the offshore business – but that they couldn’t access the money.
Here’s what happened. On Tuesday night, many gamblers were in the Meadowlands sportsbook betting on the baseball games happening on the west coast. Those games start late in East Coast time (10pm on average) and with the way baseball is going these days, the games may not end for 3 hours. The sportsbook at Meadowlands closes at 1am, and at that point apparently, the sportsbook vault shuts automatically. Unfortunately, the games ended after 1am, leaving winning ticketholders unable to collect from the sportsbook.
Now, depending on who you listen to, it appears the communication between players and staff was all messed up, and it also appears that some players may have been able to be paid from the cash till at 1am that hadn’t yet been put in the vault. Outraged bettors went to Twitter to report what had happened, and it caused a bit of a stir. Fanduel did their best to explain the situation and reminded players of the stated hours of the book. Winning tickets would be redeemed the next day. While this is a minor issue in the eyes of many, it does bring up a few concerns in our minds.
Rushing into sports betting?
Of course, the states are thrilled to now have the option of opening sportsbooks legally in their gaming facilities, but the turnaround time between the repeal of PASPA and the launch of some of these sportsbooks was bound to produce some issues. The books have been slapped together, with integration to internal systems clearly not defined properly. In the case of the Meadowlands, the simple misunderstanding of when the vault was set to lock is indicative of a company that didn’t put enough oversight into the processes. Yes, this seems like a small issue, but it makes us question how many of these “minor” issues the sportsbooks will have to manage in the early going.
Communication is key – on both sides
While the vault being closed was a minor issue, it appears the way that the sportsbook handled it from a communication standpoint may have been even more frustrating for players. It is very possible that the staff at the Meadowlands sportsbook are just being re-purposed from other areas of the casino, and we don’t know how much training they had on the business. It’s possible that the staff were doing their best to diffuse a situation when paying some of the bets but not all of them, but that may have made things worse. Having stated hours needs to be more clear, but in the case of games that go on past the 1 a.m. window will continue, especially when other sports are in play. The sportsbook will have to come up with a policy on this, especially when wanting to take in-play bets on late games.
Also, the company would do well to have a social media manager available 24 hours a day to monitor activity on Twitter and Facebook. As Paddy Power has a European office, 24-hour coverage shouldn’t be an issue. The worst case scenario is that someone makes complaints online and no one is available to respond for hours. Social media has become the first line of customer support for many companies these days, so Fanduel should be taking steps to be proactive in this area of their business.
The calm before the storm?
Ultimately, Fanduel should be happy that these issues are coming to the forefront in the summer months when there aren’t many sports to bet on. There will be a huge rush of players and bets when the football season starts, as the majority of U.S. sports bets are made on the NFL and college games. At that point, a minor issue could affect hundreds of more people. The Meadowlands sportsbook partnership with Fanduel/Paddy Power is supposed to give players a sense of comfort that the book is being managed by an experienced group. The amateurish issues of communication, combined with the earlier pricing issue that arose last week, are giving us concern as to the level of management being provided by the parent sportsbook.
These are early days for regulated sports betting in the United States. There are bound to be hiccups along the way, but if we were a potential operator in a state that hadn’t yet passed legislation, we would be adding this issue to a list of all the very fixable growing pains so that a comprehensive oversight plan can be added to the launch plans of future sports betting operations.