A lawsuit over the controversial ending to the Sports Betting National Championship (SBNC) appeared a certainty this week.
That assumption became reality Thursday when contestant Christopher Leong filed a class-action lawsuit in New Jersey against contest operator DraftKings. Filed by attorneys William Pillsbury and Mac VerStandig, the suit accuses DraftKings of bungling the $2.5 million contest:
Plaintiff asserts that the Defendant’s negligent, arbitrary, and capricious operation of the SNBC, while continually marketing to a national and large audience of participants, was, among other things, an unconscionable commercial practice that denied Plaintiff and the Class of the fundamental benefit underlying the opportunity to participate in the SBNC.
Defendant’s conduct has rendered the initial entry fee entirely or substantially worthless.
The SBNC suit seeks a series of refunds and damages that could reach more than $1 million. That includes refunds of the $10,000 entry fee to all 192 contestants.
A DraftKings spokesman declined to respond to the lawsuit because company policy prevents commenting on pending litigation.
Grounds for the SBNC lawsuit
Leong’s suit first alleges DraftKings violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act via a laundry list of complaints:
- “arbitrary and capricious acceptance of some wagers, and rejection of other similar wagers”
- “prompter grading of wagers for persons physically present in Jersey City”
- “crediting some SBNC participants with winning funds from a given sporting contest upon which bets had been placed, before crediting other SBNC participants with winnings funds from the same contests on which bets had been placed”
- “permitting at least one SBNC contestant to wager after the announced close of wagering in the SBNC”
- “general operation of the SBNC in an arbitrary, capricious and uniformly haphazard manner”
Betting limits at issue more specifically
The filing goes on to single out DraftKings senior product manager Jon Aguiar for a pre-event tweet about betting limits:
Leong alleges rejection of multiple attempted bets based on limits within the Kambi-powered system.
The Defendant’s advertisement, through its agent Mr. Aguiar, that betting limits in the SBNC “shouldn’t really come into play in major sports,” coupled with the Defendant’s rejection of myriad wagers on major sports, on apparent account of the commensurate bet sizes, constitutes an unconscionable commercial practice, a deception, a false pretense, a false promise, and a misrepresentation in connection with the Defendant’s sale of merchandise, in contravention of (New Jersey law.)
All wagers in the contest took place in the regular DraftKings Sportsbook system in New Jersey. DraftKings said earlier this week that it adhered to contest rules:
While we must follow our contest rules, we sincerely apologize for the experience several customers had where their bets were not graded in time to allow wagering on the Saints-Eagles game. We will learn from this experience and improve upon the rules and experience for future events.
Leong not the loudest contestant
Many thought third-place finisher Rufus Peabody looked the most likely to file suit after last week’s kerfuffle.
Peabody took to social media Sunday to discuss being denied a chance to bet on the final game of the competition.
Players could wager only on two NFL playoff games on the contest’s final day. Peabody went all-in on the Patriots in the first game, but did not receive his winnings in time to bet on the Eagles–Saints contest. That slow grading essentially ended any chance Peabody had to win the $1 million grand prize.
Peabody tweeted Thursday afternoon that he does not yet want in on Leong’s filing:
There has been no resolution between me and DK at this point. I'm still considering all my options, including but not limited to being a part of this.
— Rufus (@RufusPeabody) January 17, 2019
It’s not just Leong, apparently
Leong did not win any SBNC prize money in the contest. In attempting to get the class certified in the suit, the attorneys claim more contestants are willing to sign on:
Should this Honorable Court for any reason find Mr. Leong is alone insufficient to represent the Class, at least five (5) other persons, all similarly situated, are prepared to join this case as named plaintiffs.
None of the other potential plaintiffs are named in the filing.