FanDuel

FanDuel Pays Alabama National Championship Bettors Weeks Early

One of the fantasies of a gambler – casual or hardcore, doesn’t matter – is to win a bet without actually having to win the bet. To win by default, so to speak. To just be given money. That is exactly what the FanDuel sportsbook is doing. On Friday, FanDuel announced that any customer that had put a future bet on the Alabama Crimson Tide to win the college football national championship will be paid, regardless of whether or not Alabama actually wins.

Yes, Alabama Bettors Have Already Won

The deal applies to single-game wagers – anyone who placed a bet on Alabama to win the national championship before 5:00pm ET on Friday, November 30th, can redeem their betting slip for a full payout, just like they would if Alabama actually won the title game. For those with Alabama as part of a parlay (multiple bets strung together on a single ticket where every bet has to win for the entire ticket to win), Alabama will already be counted as a win.

Alabama was already the favorite to win the natty before the college football season even started, opening the season at +195, which means they were about 2-to-1 favorites. The team has been so incredibly dominant, though, that FanDuel has it at -280 to win it all, which means to win $100, a gambler would have to bet $280 on Alabama. And this is all before today’s SEC Championship against Georgia, before the national semifinal, and before the championship.

The Crimson Tide are a 12-point favorite over Georgia tonight in the SEC Championship. That’s nearly two touchdowns over the fourth-ranked team in the country, with the game being held in Atlanta. The game probably doesn’t matter much to Alabama’s national title hopes, as if it loses, it will still probably remain in the top four and make the playoffs. Its semifinal game would be more difficult – likely against Clemson – but the overall chances to win it all wouldn’t be much different.

“Alabama’s historic and seemingly inevitable march to Levi’s Stadium deserved a history making gesture to our customers,” said Mike Raffensperger, CMO of FanDuel Group, in a press release. “While the college football season has not had too many surprises, we wanted to surprise our customers today, thank them for their loyalty, and prove there are More Ways to Win on FanDuel.”

“FanDuel is a customer first company and innovations like an early payout of a major sporting event is a great example of what can be done in a legal and regulated sports betting market to benefit the consumer,” Raffensperger added. “Even if Alabama loses its next game or doesn’t win the national title, this was something that we wanted to do to celebrate our customers and show why we are the most innovative and fun sportsbook in the United States.”

If Alabama does not win the national championship, FanDuel will still pay those who bet on the winning team, as normal. The company says it could lose about $400,000 were that to happen.

People can still bet on Alabama, even if they didn’t get in early to take advantage of the surprise payout. Though Alabama is currently listed as a 12-point favorite against Georgia tonight at -110 (+350 money line) on FanDuel’s website, the company said that “has boosted the odds on Alabama to cover the spread (-13) in this weekend’s SEC Championship from -110 to +150 (max bet $25).”

FanDuel has also set an early line of Alabama -8 in a national title game matchup with Clemson, currently the second-ranked team in the country.

Why Not Just Wait?

Of course, the question is why did FanDuel do this? It seems like an unnecessary, $400,000 risk.

FanDuel spokesman Kevin Hennessy said, “It’s a way to reward our customers for betting on Alabama when the odds were really hard to make any money doing it,” which may be partially true, but companies don’t just normally give away money just to be nice.

In this case, it really seems like a PR/marketing campaign which may cost the company $400,000 or may cost it absolutely nothing. And that’s fine – I don’t want it to sound like I don’t think it’s a cool thing for FanDuel to do, as it certainly is – it’s just that there is very probably more to it than just being nice.

It may also be an attempt to look good to the public after a September snafu resulted in a customer threatening to sue. In an NFL game between the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders, the Broncos were down by two near the end of the game with the ball on Oakland’s 18-yard line. The live odds were supposed to update Denver as a -600 favorite, as it was an easy field goal to take the lead or win at that point. An 18-second system glitch, though, put the Broncos at a massive 750-1, or +75,000, underdog. Anthony Prince jumped on it. When the Broncos won, he thought he was going to win $82,610, but FanDuel said that it would only payout at the correct price, $18.35.

Though FanDuel was obviously correct and no reasonable person would expect to be paid such a ridiculous amount that was the result of a computer error, Prince threatened to sue. FanDuel even offered to give him $500 and three tickets to a New York Giants game, which he refused. FanDuel ended up paying Prince the erroneous price as a goodwill gesture.

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