And now, an open letter to DraftKings …
Love you guys. Really do. Not only do I love to play DFS — and I’m long-term profitable, thank you very much — but my DFS play also led, somewhat directly, to my gig here. Story for another day, but still: Love ya, DK.
Which is why I stand before you today to wave my arms frantically and scream as loud as I can for you to stop selling NFTs until you figure out how people are gaming the system.
Not only are you cheapening the newly launched DraftKings Marketplace, but with it, cheapening everything you do.
So before you drop those Naomi Osaka NFTs on Wednesday — and certainly before you drop the autographed versions Friday — you either need to stop the shenanigans by users who clearly know how to work around your system or you need to put a plug in the whole endeavor until you do.
Six short years ago …
Remember the great DFS scandal of 2015? Feels a lot longer ago than the six or so years, doesn’t it? Quick recap: A DraftKings employee tweeted out internal player ownership data that should not have been public and then won $350,000 playing in a FanDuel tournament.
Now, to be fair, that scandal — which got tons of mainstream press coverage — was poorly understood by the mainstream press. It was certainly more of a “scandalet” than scandal, as the ownership information was apparently not used in any decision-making by the DraftKings employee, and the lineups were made before the information was out there, but it didn’t matter. All of a sudden, DFS was under attack.
It was a pretty dark time for the then-nascent industry, and if things didn’t break the right way, DFS could’ve been banned across the nation.
Honestly, I think what saved it was then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who during a Republican gubernatorial debate was asked about the scandal. He didn’t mince words.
So yeah: Not only do we have Christie to thank for doing some of the heavy lifting on overturning PASPA, we may also have him to thank for keeping DFS above board.
Bottom line, though? When misunderstood goings-on happen to catch the eye of The New York Times and The Washington Post, it’s not a far leap to say it becomes a federal case.
So far, the Times and Post haven’t spilled any ink on the NFT issue. Pretty sure you don’t want them to, amirite?
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably well-aware of the issues DraftKings has had with its releases of NFT products from Autograph — a company partially owned by Tom Brady.
A quick recap, then:
- On Aug. 11, DraftKings Marketplace debuted and it was glorious. Easy to use, easy to get your money in and out, easy to buy and sell. A rousing, rousing success. Except for one minor issue, which I noted: You could join as many waiting rooms as you had browsers available, which meant you would be given an equal amount of places in line. I tried this gambit, and it worked. The downside to this is you had to have eyes on all the browsers, or else you’d lose your chance to purchase a Tom Brady NFT, which is currently selling for anywhere from 9X to 20X the original price.
- On Aug. 13, DraftKings Marketplace released a quintet of Tom Brady autographed NFTs, and someone managed to get all five. There were more than 20,000 users in the queue, and the NFTs were numbered to 100 (twice), 50, 25, and 12. Clearly, the odds of getting all five were astronomical, bordering on “come on.” Best guess? Someone figured out a way to use a bot to wait in a ton of lines. But, who knows? Bottom line, there was a major issue.
- On the following Monday, DraftKings issued a press release, promising, in part, “We have identified that some people were able to join into the queue more than once, which gave them extra chances to get access to buy an NFT before they sold out. We are committed to ensuring that our marketplace offers a best-in-class experience for everyone who wishes to buy an NFT on DraftKings Marketplace and will take steps to limit the ability to join the queue more than once before our next drop.” Note there was no “promise” to fix this; just a “we will take steps.”
- On Aug. 18, those steps seemed to have been taken. There was a terms and conditions box you had to check to gain entry into the marketplace, you had to do the “I’m not a robot and to prove it I will now click boxes that contain fire hydrants” thing, and, most notably, no matter how many waiting rooms you joined, you were given only one place in line. Seemed like the problem was solved. There were no reports of people getting around the system for the drop that day of non-autographed Wayne Gretzky NFTs.
- On Aug. 20, DraftKings released Gretzky-autographed NFTs, and … the problem happened again. This time, no one got all five, but six users managed to get three. Odds for this to happen are not quite as astronomical, but still, it’s pretty darn improbable.
Did they figure something out? All 12 Rubies were to solo winners in today's drops. The multiple winners are listed here. pic.twitter.com/mppudJT9YZ
— Dan (@nohitter_48) August 20, 2021
Fix it, dear Draftkings
So yes, DraftKings, it’s clear the problem isn’t completely solved. Now: Will this stop me, and 20,000 others, from trying to get our hands on the Osaka NFTs Wednesday and Friday? Nope, it won’t. And it’s not even degenerate behavior, as getting one and immediately flipping it is pretty much a guaranteed 5X.
But knowing the game is rigged by users who are managing to get around the safeguards sure does take a lot of the joy out of the chase.
DraftKings, you’re way (way, way, way, way, way, way) bigger today than you were back in 2015, and it may feel like you’re big enough to withstand this here mosquito buzzing around your ear. And the fact is, you probably are. But by not fixing this issue, you’re definitely creating a crisis of confidence.
And no company, big or small, wants to have customers start doubting their processes. The risk of spillover is real. Fix this issue, or shelve the marketplace until you do. Please.