It’s among a sportsbook’s worst nightmares: having its tech sputter and eventually fail during a gigantic betting event like the Super Bowl.
Unfortunately for Barstool Sportsbook, BetRivers and DraftKings Sportsbook, that was exactly the case Sunday – and it was an outside vendor who took the blame.
The issue was on platform and technology provider Kambi‘s end, which explained the issue on its year-end earnings call Wednesday. The failings had nothing to do with high betting volume, Kambi said, adding Super Bowl 55 was the most-bet event ever.
That claim is supported by data from GeoComply, which reported more than three times the legal US online sports betting transactions this Super Bowl weekend compared to 2020.
Instead, the outage stemmed from one specific market, Kambi CEO Kristian Nylén explained:
“The issue experienced prior to kickoff was related to one particular bet offer for which we increased the number of possible outcomes especially for the Super Bowl. This bet offer was the third-most popular offer on the day and, due to the extended number of outcomes, required extra technical capacities as part of our bet validation process. Unfortunately, this additional capacity caused a backlog and slowed, and eventually stopped, the bet validation process for all bets.”
Kambi declined to identify the market that caused the outage.
Super Bowl betting offline for 30 minutes
Kambi first noticed the issue at 5:05 p.m. Eastern, with an hour and a half left before kickoff. Bet validation was sluggish off and on over the next 85 minutes, Nylén said, with no bets accepted for 30 minutes total. The longest consistent outage was 22 minutes, he added.
Kambi slapped together a patchwork fix at first and eventually implemented a permanent fix “seven to eight minutes” before kickoff, Nylén said. The company then processed its highest volumes of all time in the moments right before kickoff, he explained.
Nylén expressed his disappointment in the failure but said he’s confident the same issue wouldn’t occur again. He also noted, as illustrated on the graph, how in-play volumes were “consistently and comfortably” above last year throughout the game.
Did outage bolster ‘own-your-tech’ argument?
Kambi provides turnkey trading technology for sportsbook operators that don’t own their own platforms. One look at Kambi’s partner list shows the firm has international respect.
The outage led to some discussion whether those involved in US sports betting industry are better off owning their technology. DraftKings moved that way with the acquisition of SBTech, which will see the company switch from Kambi’s platform this year.
A proprietary platform won’t solve every problem, though, as FanDuel Sportsbook also had its own issues Sunday. Customers in Illinois, Pennsylvania and recently-launched Michigan couldn’t log into their accounts or place bets.
The company told LSR that was because of unprecedented demand, though similar issues plagued the sportsbook on multiple NFL Sundays this season.
Nylén: Barstool has potential for ‘very, very strong position’
The conference call Q&A also included a question on customer mix, which appeared pointed at DraftKings’ eventual exit.
Nylén said the US mix will definitely be “less heavy” on one customer before showering Barstool Sportsbook with some praise:
“Having said that, Penn and Barstool, they have shown very, very strong numbers early on. I think there’s quite a good potential of Penn taking a very, very strong position in the US as well.”
While that’s probably true, it doesn’t hurt for Nylén to grease the wheels a bit with that relationship. Barstool Sportsbook had a promotion that Penn CEO Jay Snowden talked up on its recent earnings call where anyone that bet $100 on the Super Bowl would be randomly assigned to five teams. If the Barstool personality leading that team won the most money, those teammates would get $1,000 each.
Barstool paid out everyone that bet on the game because of the outages.