Unexpected demand blamed for sportsbook crashes


Prior to Sunday’s big game, the American Gaming Association (AGA) announced that according to new research, 23.2 million Americans planned to bet a staggering $4.3 billion on Super Bowl LV. And that a record 7.6 million of those Super Bowl bettors will place wagers with online sportsbooks in 2021, up 63 percent year-over-year.

President and Chief Executive Officer for the AGA, Bill Miller said…

“This year’s Super Bowl is expected to generate the largest single-event legal handle in American sports betting history. With a robust legal market, Americans are abandoning illegal bookies and taking their action into the regulated marketplace in record numbers.”

Crash and burn:

With that being said, no one could’ve predicted that the demand to bet on the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs, would see major sports gambling sites crash during the biggest game of the year but that’s exactly what happened. And instead of attracting new customers onto their platforms, technical issues and outages left some of the industry’s biggest sports betting firms including BetMGM, FanDuel, DraftKings, and Barstool Sports, scrambling to find solutions.

According to CNBC, ten minutes prior to kickoff, MGM Resorts International‘s sportsbook platform, BetMGM, could not accept bets. Complaints by angry patrons flooded social media as technicians hurriedly worked to resolve the problem. However, at the end of the game, the issue had yet to be resolved, leaving bets unsettled by MGM.

Customer ire:

And while FanDuel ads reportedly encouraged customers to take advantage of “free play” offers leading up to the big game, the Flutter Entertainment-owned sports betting company also experienced outages, which, according to the operator were intermittent and due to demand exceeding expectations. However, according to FanDuel, at no time during the 3-plus hour game did its platform cease to operate. Apparently, the majority of the glitches were seen in Michigan, where online betting went live on Jan. 22, 2021, making it the tenth state where FanDuel offers mobile sports betting.

Gamblers did not take kindly to the shut-down, with one clearly frustrated patron’s Twitter rant, “how is it that i’m seeing fanduel commercials on my television almost rubbing it in that i can’t even place a bet on your app that crashes any time there’s a reasonably large sporting event.”

FanDuel’s explanation regarding the outages reportedly came as a surprise to both industry insiders and other gambling platform operators.

CNBC reports that it was told by a leading executive…

“We all expected this to be a record-breaking event for online and mobile gambling. We had tech meeting after tech meeting leading up to Sunday to make sure things ran smoothly.”

Other outages:

Similar issues were experienced by Penn National Gaming’s Barstool Sports and DraftKings, and while the former blamed third-party tech issues for its app going down and stopped short of directly calling out one of its partners, Kambi, the Massachusetts-based sports betting company apparently did just that.

“It appears this outage was caused by a surge in traffic that caused problems for our backend provider. Our DFS (Daily Fantasy Sports) and pools products, supported by in-house technology, are functioning without issue. This incident is why we believe owning our own technology is important, said DraftKings in a statement.

Soon after completing its reverse merger with special-purpose acquisition company Diamond Eagle Acquisition Corp. last April, DraftKings announced that it would be terminating its partnership with the global sports gambling provider no earlier than September 2021. The announcement came about a year after the two firms signed a contract extension; the same one that Chief Executive Officer for DraftKings, Jason Robbins, said, “Kambi has been a key partner for DraftKings.”

Bet volumes:

Kambi reportedly told CNBC that it processed three times the bet volumes as it did for last year’s Superbowl, making this year’s the highest in its history. It [Kambi] added that overall load wasn’t the problem, rather “one specific player-related bet offer and its increased range of outcomes offered,” resulting in a backlog validating other wagers and subsequent, problematic performance.

Players who were assumed to have been affected by the outages were reportedly issued $20 credits by DraftKings, while its rival Fanduel said that in spite of the issues, it paid out $27 million to customers, with $17 million of that going to new players.

Smooth sailing:

While some sports betting platforms were overwhelmed by surging demand, others including PointsBet and William Hill reportedly said their operations during the Super Bowl were not affected by technical issues.

Chief Executive Officer for PointsBet, Johnny Aitken said, “It helps being in sole control of your technology,” while Union Gaming analyst John DeCree offered…

“The stress on the platforms is an indication of how big the potential is for sports gambling. I don’t think one incident on the biggest night of the year is going to dissuade these players permanently.”

Ratings fail:

Broadcast on CBS, Sunday’s game reportedly produced the worst viewer ratings since Super Bowl XLI in 2007, when the Indianapolis Colts defeated the Chicago Bears. Citing a Tuesday announcement by ViacomCBS, CNBC reports that this year’s big game failed to top 100 million viewers, instead attracting 96.4 million viewers for the television broadcasting company.

Since last year’s Super Bowl, which had a decidedly different outcome for the Mahomes-led Chiefs, 36 million more American adults are now able to bet in legal markets from their home state, with seven new jurisdictions including Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, DC, having joined the fray, according to the AGA.