From NJ’s FanDuel To UK’s Betfair, Are Palps At Sportsbooks Really So Common?

Martin Derbyshire Updated on November 8, 2018
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Google “common sportsbook errors” and you’ll find a lot about what you’re doing wrong. But what about the sportsbooks?

If September’s $82,610 FanDuel Sportsbook at the Meadowlands Racetrack debacle proves anything, it’s that sportsbooks make mistakes, too.

In the case of FanDuel, it’s swanky new NJ sports betting operation booked a $110 in-game moneyline bet at a whopping 750-1 (+75,000) on the Broncos to beat the Raiders. The Broncos were down by two late in the fourth quarter, and they came back to win it.

FanDuel employees said a glitch in its system created odds so high they could hide behind a policy stating that in the case of any blatant errors, ones that are materially different from the general market, and the price is clearly incorrect, bets should be settled at the correct price.

In this case, that was a woeful -600, turning an $82,610 ticket into one worth $128.35. FanDuel offered up the $18 profit and box seats to a couple of NY Giants games as an apology. However, when the gambler who made the bet refused and went public with his story, the organization ultimately caved.

FanDuel pays on a sports betting palp

FanDuel paid out the $82,610, plus a few other bets from savvy gamblers who had taken advantage of the glitch on its NJ mobile sports betting app. But it was likely a clear public relations move. NJ gaming regulators hadn’t even had a chance to look into what happened yet.

The NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement, it was assumed, would land on FanDuel’s side because the NJ sportsbook has a published policy in place protecting itself against such errors. However, there is no real consensus yet on how the DGE will respond to future errors.

But the early days of NJ sports betting won’t be around forever. As the industry grows and matures, sportsbooks will eventually start leaning toward policy over public relations when mistakes like this happen again. Obvious errors will not be paid out.

The truth is, gaming regulations all over the world include clauses meant to protect sportsbooks in the case of clearly obvious mistakes like this.

In the UK, they call the errors palps. It’s short for a palpable error, meaning a sportsbook has published odds that are so obviously a mistake, they must be considered to be one.

When something like that happens across the pond, the sportsbook either takes it’s money back or doesn’t pay. Here are a few recent examples:

A Betfair glitch in the UK

Back in 2014, a UK soccer fan placing bets on Betfair sports betting app found an odds glitch giving her 12-1 on a team ahead by a few goals with just a few minutes left to play. She bet £50, made a tidy £600 profit and withdrew the cash before Betfair discovered the error.

A few days later, Betfair essentially took the money back, leaving her with a negative balance of -£593.

A Guardian newspaper advice columnist told the woman Betfair has every right to reclaim the money. In fact, there’s a clause in its terms and conditions protecting it against this kind of palp.

All UK sportsbooks terms and conditions state that if a genuine error occurs they can cancel a bet. Players either get the bet back or have the bet settled at the correct price.

So as a gambler, it pays to read the fine print.

Over in the US, Nevada sportsbooks have had similar policies on the books for decades.

Tickets issued by most sportsbooks have an expiry date printed on them. What Nevada sportsbooks don’t publish is an unwritten rule that nearly all sports betting operations will cash a winning ticket even after its expiration date.

Another sportsbook error to watch for

In a widely publicized story from 2008, the sportsbook at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas refused to pay professional gaming consultant and gambling strategy author Michael Shackleford on an old ticket.

Shackleford took his complaint to the Nevada Gaming Control Board. He claimed to have bet $1,000 on Oklahoma State over Texas Tech at +190.

Oklahoma won, making the ticket worth $2,900. Shackleford wasn’t at the Stratosphere during the game. In fact, he didn’t try to claim the ticket until he went back on Jan. 26, some 126 days later. The back of the betting slip clearly indicated the ticket is valid for 60 days after the event. However, Shackleford claimed he’d cashed expired tickets at Las Vegas sportsbooks with no problem previously.

The Stratosphere refused to pay.

Through the NGCB process, the Stratosphere revealed its redemption period for sports tickets is actually 120 days, not 60. This particular ticket was printed from an old paper roll with erroneous information.

Ultimately, the NGCB ruled in favor of Shackleford, ordering the decision denying payment be reversed. But not before it highlighted the fact that sportsbooks are capable of making mistakes with both published and unpublished policies.

Or, that at least one old adage holds true: Settling up a lost wager, no matter how old, is the honorable thing to do.

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