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William Hill US’s marketing ploy to capture some off-season National Football League betting action turned out to bring more negative attention than positive, thanks to a company foul-up in paying out winners on one of the prop bets being last month. Now, the company’s US-market foothold in Nevada will likely have to find a way to track down bettors who took the winning side of a draft-pick wager featuring top overall pick Baker Mayfield.
Four weeks ago, on April 5th, William Hill US issued a press release announcing 31 different prop bets based on the NFL draft. The prop offers ran from the business-like (the number of University of Alabama prospects drafted in the first round of 32 picks, with an O/U of 4), to the silly (whether any of the first-round draftees would choose not to shake NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand when they climbed on stage to receive their just-became-a-millionaire accolades.
Several of the bets had to do with the high-ranking quarterback prospects, such as eventual overall #1 pick Baker Mayfield (from the University of Oklahoma), and from that emerged a blunder. One of the offered props was that Mayfield would be selected eight or more picks sooner than another touted QB, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. The official over/under was 7.5 picks, meaning a winner was assured.
Come last week’s Round 1 draft spectacle, and Mayfield was indeed selected as the overall #1 pick, by the serially-hapless Cleveland Browns… no knock intended regarding Mayfield’s QB skills. Yet Jackson slid down through the ranks of drafted players, falling all the way to #32, where he went to the Baltimore Ravens in the first round’s final pick.
Prop bettors who chose Mayfield and the draft gap rightly expected to pick up their winnings when they visited their nearest William Hill US location. The company operates over 100 such locations in Nevada, including dozens of automated kiosks in smaller casinos across the state. Except those bettors’ slips were rejected as losers.
Complaints soon began flowing into the Nevada Gaming Commission, according to ESPN’s David Purdum, one of the company’s sports-betting beat writers. Purdum interviewed a couple of bettors, who had been denied winning payouts, although in one of those instances, the William Hill US location offered a refund of the bet, but without full explanation why.
That didn’t sit well with the bettors or the NGC, which seemingly ordered the Hills to start paying out those winning bets. The NGC also sent an email acknowledging the situation to Purdum, who reproduced a part of it in his update on the story:
“We have been in contact with William Hill staff to ensure any outstanding concerns regarding the subject wager have been resolved,” Karl Bennison, chief of enforcement for gaming control, wrote to Purdum. “Of course, in any case, any problem regarding the grading of a ticket not resolved to the satisfaction of both of the bettor and sports book operator, is handled as a dispute case. Bettors should always bring grading concerns to the attention of the sports book operator first. If the book is not able to resolve the issue, then the licensee is obligated to let the patron know they can contact the (gaming control) Board to investigate the matter.”
William Hill subsequently began paying out on the slips choosing the Mayfield side of the prop wager, but not before an untold number had been refused as losers of refunded – likely after long arguments with bettors – as nullified wagers.
But were the wagers and the prop bet itself actually nullified? That’s the core issue, it seems. William Hill did yank that bet from its prop-offer listings sometime in mid-April, and seemingly tried to nullify the wagers made prior to that time… a move that drew the finger-wag from Nevada’s regulators. Overall, the books that offered various prop bets on the NFL draft generally got clobbered by that sharps who took advantage of the offerings.
“It was confusing,” William Hill US’ vice president of marketing, Michael Grodsky, told Purdum and ESPN. “It was brought to our attention, and we are paying customers. Customers can bring tickets on the specific props to any of our sports books and we will cash them.”
All right then, we guess.
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