The 9/11 Parlay: A Sports Betting Own Goal

Screenshots emerged Monday showing DraftKings offered users a "Never Forget," 9/11-themed parlay.

Last Updated: Sep 11, 2023 1:27 PM ET Read Time: 2 min
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The legal sports betting industry never ceases to amaze. Today, unfortunately, we are gathered to discuss something amazingly tone-deaf.

It almost beggars belief, but screenshots emerged Sunday night showing DraftKings offered users a "Never Forget," 9/11-themed parlay. Users were invited to bet the New York Jets, Mets, and Yankees to win today, September 11, at odds of +651.

This was a staggering thing — a sportsbook operator seemingly using a sad anniversary to sell users on a parlay. That would be wildly inappropriate, and, unsurprisingly, the social-media pushback arrived quickly and the premade wager was pulled down. 

“We sincerely apologize for the featured parlay that was shared briefly in commemoration of 9/11,” DraftKings said on X, the former Twitter. “We respect the significance of this day for our country and especially for the families of those who were directly affected.”

How exactly this happened is anyone’s guess. Maybe a well-meaning and over-zealous intern made a mistake. I don’t know. 

However, it may be getting increasingly difficult for sports betting sites to get the benefit of the doubt on stuff like this. Lawmakers and regulators are watching the marketing efforts of bookmakers like hawks, and any misstep will be added to the body of evidence for why more laws and regulations are needed. 

And this 9/11 parlay... it’s an all-time own goal. Nobody was clamoring for a 9/11-themed parlay (one would hope, at least), but now there’s a chance DraftKings and the rest of the industry will have to wear it around their necks until the end of time. I watched regulators in Massachusetts furrow their brows over the notion of a “can’t lose” parlay promotion, so I can only imagine how a 9/11 parlay, however briefly offered, will go over. 

Furthermore, the apology from DraftKings says the parlay was “in commemoration” of 9/11. Let’s consider what was being offered here, then. Users were being nudged toward a three-leg parlay that included two underdogs and had odds of +651.

In other words, people who made the bet were probably going to lose, an outcome that would financially benefit DraftKings. Also, after the featured parlay was removed, I remade it myself and got better odds of +661. 

Patience running thin

Is this how we should commemorate a tragedy? With a bad bet? What's next? The Pearl Harbor same-game parlay? 

While I am being extremely facetious (do NOT make a Pearl Harbor-themed SGP), the promotional efforts of sportsbook operators are already becoming a punchline. The Onion even ran a satirical news story last week headlined: "FanDuel Promo Offers Complimentary $100 Bet To First-Time Gambling Hotline Callers."

The sports betting industry is still relatively new, and there are and will be growing pains. Sportsbook operators are also trying to prove they can be profitable, and parlays are key to increasing hold rates and improving the bottom line. 

An over-eagerness for earnings could lead to mistakes. But what happens when the patience for those mistakes runs out?

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