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If we polled sports bettors, it would not be surprising to learn an even worse fate than losing a bet. That would be not being able to officially get your wager into a sportsbook and even worse than that, suffering the eventual fate of learning it would have won.
That potential scenario took place for both hardcore and casual bettors last Sunday during the Super Bowl starting at 5:05 PM and lasting on and off until kickoff before the game. Several of the most noted sportsbook operators including DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel, BetMGM, BetRivers, and Barstool were affected by a sudden and surprising outage.
All did the best they could to alert their customers affected, quickly trying to isolate the cause and location of the problem.
As expected, social media was immediately buzzing with ire from frustrated sports bettors. One person wrote on Twitter, “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 betting app that crashes any time there’s a reasonably large sporting event.”
FanDuel added in a tweet:
We are aware customers in Michigan and Illinois are having trouble logging in and placing wagers on the Sportsbook platform. Our team is working on resolving this issue as quickly as possible and we will provide any updates here. We apologize for any inconvenience!
BetMGM tweeted at about 6PM ET Sunday that it was aware of issues in Nevada with the BetMGM app “and within our retail sportsbooks.” By late Sunday, an apology was issued saying the issue had been resolved.
We sincerely apologize to all BetMGM Nevada customers impacted by tonight’s outage,” the apology said. “All winning bets placed within the app are now settled.
Penn National Gaming’s Barstool Sports app also went down, blaming third-party tech issues. It stopped short of pointing the finger at its technology partner, global sports gambling provider Kambi. However, DraftKings Sportsbook did and perhaps acted prematurely.
Super Bowl LV was the single highest wagered event, supported by data from GeoComply, which reported more than three times the legal US online sports betting transactions this year in comparison to 2020.
As figured by several sportsbook operators, the outage problem was found to be stemming from one specific market. Kambi CEO Kristian Nylén explained the cause:
The issue experienced prior to kickoff was related to one particular bet offer for which we increased the number of possible outcomes especially for the Super Bowl. This bet offer was the third-most popular offer on the day and, due to the extended number of outcomes, required extra technical capacities as part of our bet validation process. Unfortunately, this additional capacity caused a backlog and slowed, and eventually stopped, the bet validation process for all bets.
At this time Kambi has declined to name the specific market as we wait for further clarification.
Rectifying the problem Kambi was able to put together a temporary fix that eventually led to a permanent solution approximately seven to eight minutes before kickoff, according to Nylén. He went on to explain the company then was able to process and achieve its highest all-time volumes thereafter prior to kick-off.
While expressing his disappointment, Nylén said he was confident the issue would not ever occur again. He also noted that in-play volumes were consistently and comfortably above last year throughout the game.
Evaluating this unfortunate circumstance involving the sportsbook outage recalls a decades-old debate of horseplayers often blaming jockeys for their horse’s misfortunes on the racetrack.
Whether sportsbook operators do choose to own their own technology system does not make them immune to these potential problems and temporary shutdowns that rarely do occur. The fact that it took place during the heaviest traffic, most publicized sports betting day of the year, the Super Bowl, magnified the reality.
As horseplayers do, it is understandable to quickly find some blame for a frustrating financial loss. Perhaps out of the recent Super Bowl circumstance, better technology might be uncovered to make it less likely to happen again. However, it would be naive to think it is impossible to prevent these unfortunate events directly affecting sports bettors from totally disappearing.
Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
Email: [email protected]
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