NJ investigates $1M DraftKings tourney with bet timing issues

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Investigation into DraftKings tournament. Matt O'Donnell reports during Action News Mornings on January 15, 2019.

New Jersey gambling regulators are looking into a sports betting tournament held over the weekend in which some competitors were unable to make bets on an NFL playoff game, costing them a shot at a $1 million top prize.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement said Monday it is reviewing the DraftKings tournament that is the first high profile tournament of its kind since sports betting was legalized in New Jersey.

Entrants were restricted Sunday to betting on the two NFL playoff games. The Patriots-Chargers game ended shortly before the start of the Saints-Eagles game, leading to some bettors not having their winnings from the early game processed in time to wager on the second contest.

DraftKings apologized for the situation but said it had to follow its own rules.

"We recognize that in the rules the scheduled end of betting coincided very closely to the finish of the of Patriots-Chargers game," said DraftKings spokesman James Chisholm. "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."

That did not help Rufus Peabody, a professional gambler from Washington D.C. who was leading the tournament heading into the Saints-Eagles game with a bankroll of over $81,000. He said he planned to roll that money over into a bet on the Saints at a reduced point spread (they were favored by 8 points, but lesser lines were available at a higher price), or on the under, wagering that the total points scored between both teams combined would be beneath a certain number.

Both of those bets would have been winners, and, depending on what other competitors had done, Peabody stood a good chance of winning the $1 million top prize.

But his winnings from the Patriots-Chargers game were not credited to his account in time for him to get his final bets down.

"I feel like it's an issue of fairness, that some people's bets were graded before others," he said. "There's a subset of people that had their bets graded and were able to bet on the second game and a subset of others that were not."

DraftKings did not say how many entrants were unable to bet on the second game.

Peabody would not say whether he plans to challenge the outcome, saying only, "I'm looking into what options I have."

He finished third in the tournament, winning a $250,000 prize. He also kept his $81,000 tournament bankroll.

The company acknowledged that some competitors had their bets on the early game processed in time before the second game started. But others were not due to the short window of time between games. Several entrants said the gap was as short as three minutes.

"As with all mobile sports books, there is always some time period required for the back end systems to grade the market and the pay out to occur," Chisholm said.

DraftKings was not the only mobile sports book to experience problems on Sunday. FanDuel's app and site went down for at least 45 minutes during the Saints-Eagles game, angering customers who were looking to make live in-game bets as it unfolded. FanDuel said Monday it is reviewing the cause of the incident.
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