Could NY Online Betting’s Fast Start Be An Omen Of Super Bowl Sunday Challenges?

Written By Derek Helling on January 11, 2022
Girl In New York Looking On Her Phone for Mobile Betting

The limited launch of New York mobile betting was legendary. By all metrics, the number of people on the apps, number of bets placed, dollar totals, it was a rousing success that suggests even the most optimistic appraisals of the value of the market might have been too conservative.

Yet, the weekend wasn’t a flawless victory for the online sports betting industry. The minor technical issues that surfaced in the first weekend of activity in NY could signal more extensive problems for bettors and sportsbooks on the biggest sports betting day of the year.

New York mobile betting makes a grand debut

New York became a behemoth with just four of the nine licensed operators beginning to take bets Saturday. GeoComply, which provides location services for many companies, including NY online books, shared its jaw-dropping numbers.

Over the weekend, the highlights included 17.2 million pings (GeoComply’s software locating an access point) in New York. Nearly half of those came from New York City. For perspective on the scale, GeoComply narrowed it down to just the first 12 hours of wagering, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET on Saturday.

GeoComply saw 5.8 million pings during that time in NY. During the same 12 hours, neighboring Pennsylvania registered fewer than half that number at 2.3 million pings. Whether those numbers are an accurate picture of what the market in NY will look like is irrelevant right now. The fact is that it was a fantastic launch.

At the same time, there were hiccups. The nature of those hiccups is why the sportsbooks and their technology vendors need to get to work to avoid bigger issues next month.

Traffic exceeds server capacity on Day 1 of NY online sports betting

Users reported service outages on DraftKings Sportsbook NY and FanDuel Sportsbook NY on Saturday. They were isolated and short-lived, however. Caesars Sportsbook NY experienced the worst of it, going down for about three hours on Sunday.

Caesars CEO Thomas Reeg spoke to what happened in a CNBC interview.

“When you have massive demand like we did, you see the pinch points in your system,” Reeg explained. “Unfortunately we did not have flawless performance this weekend, and as a sports bettor myself I know how frustrating that can be.”

So the hardware and software professionals will do their work and improve performance, no big deal, right? There’s only one first day for New York online sports betting, so it’s just a blip on the radar. Well…

Super Bowl Sunday represents the largest single sports betting day in North America each year. It’s the day when even the most casual of bettors might plop down a wager or two. All that unusual activity means a ton of strain on the servers that act as oxygen to the betting apps.

Recent history isn’t on the side of those servers. It’s a harbinger of gloomy tidings given what we’ve already seen out of the demand for mobile wagering in the Empire State.

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Recent Super Bowl struggles for sportsbooks

While Super Bowl bets have brought considerable revenue for sportsbooks, they have also produced app crashes and lags. During Super Bowl LV, six different prominent sports betting apps in disparate states saw crashes and outages.

Super Bowl LV became the most-bet Super Bowl ever. GeoComply data showed a 254% increase in pings compared to Super Bowl LIV. That all happened while online sports betting remained illegal in several places where that’s no longer the case.

This year, online wagering will not only be available in NY for the first time on a Super Bowl Sunday, but the same goes for Arizona and neighboring Connecticut. It’s also possible that mobile sportsbooks could launch in Arkansas and most of Louisiana before the NFL’s championship game this year.

New York activity happens on dedicated servers. State law mandates that the servers for each licensed online sportsbook rest at one of the state’s four commercial casinos. However, the new markets mean Super Bowl LVI should eclipse Super Bowl LV for the most-bet Super Bowl ever.

That’s partially by sportsbooks’ own design. Part of the reason why the Super Bowl is the biggest single betting day of each year is that sportsbooks get the most creative and generous with their promotions and prop bets.

Given that NY is a young market and some of the other five inactive operators might be live in time for the game, the competition for bettors’ attention on Super Bowl Sunday in NY should be fierce. While that might be great news for bargain-seeking bettors, it could mean severe strain for servers.

Given the popularity of the Super Bowl as a betting product, a month for previously ignorant New Yorkers to become aware of their options, the allure of the offers, and the enormous population, a perfect storm is on the horizon for Super Bowl Sunday. If the Buffalo Bills win the AFC, all hell could break loose.

Photo by GaudiLab / Shutterstock.com
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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