Washington Post - Sports books say "you can win big" and then they try to limit the winners

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By Eurocat on 19:47:32 11/18/22


Evan Fournier seemed poised for a big night. The New York Knicks’ guard tends to torch the Boston Celtics, his previous team, and Beau Wagner, an attorney in the Chicago area, couldn’t believe that DraftKings was giving Fournier just 50-to-1 odds of being the top scorer when the Knicks faced the Celtics in January.

A serious sports bettor, Wagner, 42, wagered $1,000 on Fournier. Stars like Jayson Tatum and Julius Randle were favorites to be the game’s top scorer, but in Wagner’s eyes, Fournier’s odds were too good to pass up.

He was right: The Knicks’ sharpshooter scored a game-high 41 points.

Wagner tweeted a screenshot of his $50,000 winning ticket, and the official DraftKings account retweeted it with the caption, “BEAU KNOWS BETTING.”

A printout of the tweet hangs on Wagner’s wall. But his appreciation for DraftKings quickly gave way to resentment. A day after his Fournier bet, Wagner discovered that DraftKings wouldn’t let him bet more than $100 on an NBA game. A few days later, he tried to place another prop bet through the online sportsbook and wasn’t allowed to put down more than $3.63.

“The major problem I have is that DraftKings used my ticket to make it seem like you can win big, just like they do in their commercials,” Wagner said. “You promote my tweet and literally the next morning, I’m limited.”

DraftKings isn’t alone. Many U.S. sportsbook operators are seeking to boost profits by weeding out winning customers. Bettors who show signs of savvy are being limited faster and more aggressively than in the past, based on interviews with 20 bookmakers and accomplished bettors. As a result, Americans who are trying to make sports gambling their livelihood — or at least a profitable side hustle — are going to extreme lengths to evade limits: betting through proxies, sprinkling in deliberately dumb bets and wearing team jerseys when betting in person in an effort to pass as a “square.” Some have even returned to unregulated bookies, who don’t limit their action nearly as much.

Although some states, such as New Jersey, prohibit sportsbooks from banning rule-abiding customers simply for winning, imposing different limits on different customers is allowed nationwide.

Sophisticated bettors, or “sharps,” point out that if they aren’t allowed to bet more than pocket change, they might as well be banned. Asked about that apparent loophole, a spokesperson for New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement said, “We are not in a position to evaluate hypotheticals.”

Dan Hartman, director of Colorado’s Division of Gaming, said there is no right to be a professional sports gambler. “It’s a form of entertainment,” he said.

Several leading sportsbooks, including DraftKings, either declined or did not respond to interview requests for this story.

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