As I write this, I am on a plane, one day removed from being bounced from the inaugural DraftKings Sports Betting National Championship (SBNC).
My partner (the incredibly talented Gill Alexander) and I ponied up the $10,000 entry fee for our shot at winning the $1 million top prize. We fell short of our goal, but had a blast and learned a lot.
The SBNC takes sports betting — which is usually always you versus the book — to a peer-to-peer battle that really makes things fun.
Before this starts to look like I’m getting on my high horse, I’d like to say that the event was incredibly well run. The makeshift sportsbook was awesome. The DraftKings Sportsbook app worked nearly flawlessly.
The food was hot; the booze was plentiful; good times were had by all. This article is not an attempt to bash the event, but just some thoughts on how we could really crank up Version 2 of this interesting concept.
The timing of the event
The first thing I would do is change when the event occurs on the sports calendar.
Without question, the SBNC needs to happen earlier in the football season, when we have a full day of college football on Saturday and a full day of NFL football on Sunday.
The atmosphere in the room was undoubtedly fun, but if we had several football results hitting all day long, the walls would have been rocking in that place.
Further, I think with several more football games on the betting slate; the event would attract a lot more entries. A group of buddies that share a love of football may split up the entry fee for a shot at a million.
But with only three football games (you could only bet before the kickoff of the fourth game), I think it detracts from the appeal to the masses.
Even if we change the timing to allow for more football games, I would definitely push back the cutoff for bets.
The easy fix here is to push the cutoff back to the third-quarter kickoff of the afternoon games — at the latest. Then you could place bets pregame, in-game, second half, props and whatever you want up until the second half of a game kicks off.
There would need to be a formal announcement, e.g., an email, a tweet, a push notification, an IG post, a Facebook post — you get the point, as to which game happens to be on the slate.
When the final third quarter on the slate begins, there’d be no more bets. This window gives time for all the morning games to pay out and allows people to get that money back into action — even if it has to be making in-game bets to any afternoon games that had already kicked off.
I would make sure we had uniform bet grading across the board.
In no way would any player get paid out earlier or later than another player on the same form of a bet. So, player props would pay out uniformly. Game props would pay out at the same point for everyone.
There has to be a plan in place for bet grading that definitively ensures that no entrant in the contest has any competitive advantage by having a similar bet scored before another player’s bet.
I am and have always been, a huge fan of flatter payout structures.
I’ve always felt that if more people can leave with a positive (in this instance, financially) experience, it’s better for the product. I completely understand that slapping a $1 million top prize on the first event was needed for PR and to get everyone’s attention.
As we move into the second version of the SBNC, do we really think people would balk at a $500k or $600k top prize? It’s still a massive amount, and it allows for a deeper payout than the 25 entrants that made money in this contest.
Pumping $400k back into the prize pool would allow you to pay at least 15-20 more spots while dropping some extra cash into the 25 spots you were already paying.
Double it up
The final thing I would do for the next SBNC: Pair it up on the same weekend with one of the big DFS events.
I already mentioned the benefit of increasing entries. You’re getting a couple hundred (there would be some overlap) fantasy players into town with the DFS event, and naturally, you’re going to get some of those guys to fire into the SBNC.
Then — from an atmosphere and experience perspective — we move from every quarter of football producing some drama to every single play holding some value for someone. The room would be electric. One big catch would equal amounts of joy and misery. Isn’t that what gambling is all about?
All in all, this type of contest is only going to get bigger. As sports betting expands into other jurisdictions, we potentially see them pop up all over the country in the coming years.
Innovation within the sports betting realm has an open invitation, and let’s be honest, it was a pretty amazing sweat. With a few small adjustments, this event could be a solid product that grows into something that will be on every level of sports bettor’s bucket list.
For more on the inaugural Sports Betting National Championship, including an interview with the $1 million winner, check out the SBNC live blog here at TheLines.com.
For sports bettors, the Westgate SuperContest has become the holy grail of handicapping competitions. Last year, a record number of entrants forked over $1,500 in hopes of claiming one of the 50 spots that actually return money.
The problem here lies in the fact that the contest didn’t draw 500 entries (where 10% of the field would make the money on 50 pay slots), or 1,000 entries (where 5% of entries would cash). No, the 2017 version of the SuperContest drew 2,748 entries! Paying 50 spots means that just shy of 2% of the field made any sort of return on their money.
The monetary Westgate SuperContest payouts themselves were as asinine as the field percentage. First place paid out $1,327,000, while second place was $531,000. A min-cash — any team finishing in spots 42-50 — was barely more than double your entry, coming in at $3,792. Yes, you’re doing the math correctly. You beat out 2,700 teams (who all paid $1,500) and your profit was a mere $2,292.
But the first-place prize is beyond laughable. $1.327 million? Is anybody complaining about turning $1,500 into $1 million? Of course not. You could have made someone a millionaire while pumping over $327,000 into the rest of the payouts and been better off anyway! $1 million to first place is more marketable. It’s cleaner. It’s memorable. It’s just better any way you look at it.
Changes in 2018 aren’t changes at all
The Westgate made an announcement this month that it had listened to the complaints from players and a change was going to be made. The 2018 version of the contest will pay…<drumroll>…75 positions! Wow Westgate, you really went all-in with making this more player friendly.
This ‘change’ really isn’t a change at all. The contest is very likely to draw more entries than last year (2017 drew nearly 900 more entries than 2016), making the 75 payout spots the same field percentage as the 50 payout spots from last year.
And why put a hard number of payout slots on the contest anyway? Why can’t it pay 5% or 10% of the field … no matter how many entries? Why can’t Westgate learn from the poker industry who tried, and failed, at super topheavy payout structures? You have to think about keeping money in the ecosystem. You have to think about providing more people with a positive contest experience. You have to consider not being so set in your ways that you ignore an obvious and much-needed fix to your growing entity.
- Editor’s note: On May 28 Westgate changed the SuperContest payouts to the top 100 finishers plus ties. So … still not much has changed.
If the SuperContest doesn’t change its ways, it will suffer the same fate as several pioneers across a myriad of different industries. A good idea is poorly run and eventually eclipsed by someone taking your idea and executing it better.
The SuperContest is no different. With sports betting legalization on the horizon, there will be new contests. Those contests will utilize everything good about the SuperContest, and quickly trash the bad. And with that, leaving the SuperContest a relic, and the folks at the Westgate wondering why they didn’t just listen to the players.