FanDuel Comments on Virginia Consumer Protection Regulations (11 VAC 5-80-10 to 11 VAC 5-80-30)
11 VAC 5-80-10 Definitions
The definition of “sports betting” specifically excludes wagering on “sports events organized by the International Olympic Committee.” This restriction is not reflected in statute and will only drive customers seeking to wager on the Olympics to use offshore, illegal sportsbooks. As such we urge the removal of this prohibition by amending the definition of “sports betting” as follows:
““Sports betting” means placing wagers on professional sports, college sports, sporting events, and any portion thereof, and includes placing wagers related to the individual performance statistics of athletes in such sports and events. “Sports betting” includes any system or method of wagering approved by the Director. “Sports betting” does not include placing a wager on a college sports event in which a Virginia public or private institution of higher education is a participant[
, nor does “sports betting” include placing a wager on sports events organized by the International Olympic Committee].”
11 VAC 5-80-20 Sports bettor’s bill of rights
Subdivision (1)(a) of Subsection (C) requires permit holders to publicly show, presumably in real time, how much is wagered on every bet type offered for every event (and potentially, how much is on each potential outcome of every bet type). This language is also found in Article I, bullet one of the proposed Sports Bettors’ Bill of Rights.
This mandate is not required by statute, nor is it required by any other state. It also serves no useful purpose for sports bettors but would significantly burden operators and ultimately consumers.
This sort of disclosure is more relevant to pari-mutuel pools in horseracing, where the handle wagered on each outcome directly affects the payout odds to bettors. To require this information to be publicly disclosed by permit holders across all betting markets would be incredibly burdensome to operators, including requiring extensive product changes that would slow operators to market and discourage others from entry, while providing no tangible benefit to customers and potentially impacting them adversely.
As an example, FanDuel offered 24 different bet types (markets) on the August 19, 2020 Brooklyn Nets vs Toronto Raptors NBA game. There were 300+ potential outcomes bettors could wager on within these 24 different bet types, plus a nearly unlimited number of permutations of parlay wagers. First, it is unclear how an operator could possibly display this information meaningfully given the limited screen space within mobile applications. Second, the need to update this dynamic information in real-time would severely hamper refresh rates (negatively impacting customers placing in-play wagers). Sports betting apps are simply not built to provide and display this type of information. As such, this requirement would force a re-engineering of the products, to create a demonstrably worse user experience, and all to provide information which is immaterial to the calculation of the odds and/or payout a bettor will receive. There is simply no benefit gained for customers to offset the burden on operators and customers alike from this requirement.
Subdivision (1)(b) of Subsection (C) requires permit holders to display the “odds of winning the bet and the information used to calculate those odds.” Similar language is also included in Article I, bullet two of the proposed Sports Bettors’ Bill of Rights. This language is not required by statute, nor is it required by any other state and, would provide no useful information for sports bettors while forcing the disclosure of competitively sensitive information for operators.
The pertinent information for any wager placed is the odds offered to the customer, which define the payout for a winning wager and cost of a losing wager. By contrast, in sports wagering, unlike fixed odd casino gaming, “the odds of winning the bet” are not meaningful to a bettor, nor can they be specifically determined in any event. For example, the probability of heads on a coin flip is 50% (1/2), the probability of rolling a 5 on a standard die is 16.67% (1/6), and the probability of pulling a specific card out of a standard deck is 1.92% (1/52). The actual odds that the Brooklyn Nets will beat the Toronto Raptors, and by how many points, is unknown.
Moreover, to the extent operators use pricing models to inform how they set the respective odds on a given bet, those models and the “information used to calculate those odds” are highly proprietary. Indeed, the data modeling that operators perform to arrive at pricing decisions is among the most competitively sensitive information that a sportsbook operator produces. Forcing disclosure of these methods would provide no benefit to consumers, but it would severely curtail operator’s ability to offer a competitive product, and would ultimately have a negative impact on consumers as operators were constrained from using proprietary methods to offer consumers better prices. At most, a general high-level disclosure on an operator’s website about how sportsbooks determine and set the odds on wagers would be sufficient to provide transparency to bettors without implicating competitor trade secrets.
Finally, Subdivision (2) of Subsection (C) requires permit holders to make readily available “Information on play (e.g., player feedback).” This presumably is requiring permit holders to develop a customer review functionality on their platform site (and presumably within any sports betting app as well). Information in the form of customer reviews is widely available to the public through other channels. For example there are over 68,000 reviews of the FanDuel Sportsbook App in the Apple App Store. Instead of requiring permit holders to “reinvent the wheel” in relation to customer reviews, it would be more appropriate to require permit holders to make available contact information so that a customer in need of assistance is able to seek it promptly.
To address the concerns raised above, we suggest the following changes to 11 VAC 5-80-20(C):
- “A permit holder’s platform site must provide substantial and readily available information to enable players to make informed decisions about their gambling, including:
- With regard to any sports bet, prominent publication of, at a minimum:
- The amount the player is wagering at time of wager confirmation [
handle of the bet];
- The odds at which the wager is offered [
of winning the bet and the information used to calculate those odds]; and
- The amount the player is wagering at time of wager confirmation [
3]c. The payout amounts and a schedule of payouts.
- Contact information for the permit holder[
Information on play (e.g., player feedback)];…”
11 VAC 5-80-30 Consumer complaints
Subsection (A) requires that permit holders develop procedures by which a sports bettor may file a complaint with the permit holder “…in person, in writing, online or by other means about any aspect of the sports betting program.” This provision may work for permit holders who will also be operating physical facilities in the Commonwealth (licensed casino operators), however this requirement is unduly burdensome on permit holders who will be offering a mobile sports wagering product and as such, the requirement for accepting complaints “in person” should be removed.
Subsection (B) requires that permit holders respond in writing to any customer complaint within 15 days of the filing of the complaint. In the event that a sports bettor is seeking assistance in relation to a responsible gaming concern, and at the same time is seeking resolution of an issue with the sports betting platform, allowing trained customer service personnel of the permit holder to respond directly over the telephone, may be the more appropriate solution. To address this concern, an exemption to this language should be made to defer to the responsible gaming processes of the operator when such an issue is evinced in tandem with a complaint.
To address the concerns raised above, we suggest the following changes to 11 VAC 5-80-30(A) and (B):
- “A permit holder shall develop and prominently publish procedures by which a sports bettor may file a complaint with the permit holder [
in person,] in writing, online, or by other means about any aspect of the sports betting program.
- A permit holder shall respond to any such complaint in writing within 15days of the filing of the complaint. If a sports bettor requests relief in a complaint, and the requested relief or part thereof will not be granted, the response to the complaint shall state with specificity the reasons for the denial of relief. In the event that a consumer complaint relates to, or evinces, a responsible gaming concern, the requirement of this subsection for a response in writing shall not apply and the handling of the complaint shall be conducted in accordance with the provisions of the permit holder’s responsible gaming plan.”