Spinny Wheels And Altered Odds: PointsBet’s Tactics Are Angering Bettors

It's the changing of odds in the middle of trying to wager that's really causing grief
PointsBet's Tactics Are Angering Bettors
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In his hit “Proud Mary,” John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival famously sang, “Big wheel keep on turnin’, Proud Mary keep on burnin’.”

Today, if he were writing that song for a certain Australian-based sportsbook, the chorus might go something like, “Spinny wheel keep on spinnin’, PointsBet keep on winnin’.”

Terrible misuse of classic rock aside, PointsBet, while maybe not “winnin’,’” is certainly – according to numerous tweets from aggravated customers – doing its best to keep its customers from doing so.  From intolerable wait times to get a bet through, to limiting customers, to messing with odds, the company has, in recent months, been guilty of some of the worst sportsbook faux pas.

To be clear, PointsBet isn’t alone. Not a day goes by that I don’t see someone posting the ridiculous limits imposed on customers by DraftKings and others. We all know how many of the newfangled sportsbooks operate: Show a little skill, beat a few closing lines, and next thing you know, you’re limited to 17 cents.

But PointsBet has been getting heat on Twitter and in private for behaviors that go beyond limiting.

Most egregious? Many customers have reported attempting to get a bet down, watch the spinny wheel begin its laborious process to decide whether or not the sportsbook accepts the bet, and then, in the background, watch the odds on the bet they are trying to place change (for the worse), and then have their original bet approved, but at a much lower level.

Not so fast

Conor Olsen, a bettor in Illinois, was watching the College Football Championship game last month and realized that Ohio State was set to return a ton of talent in 2022. So he decided to place a wager on the Buckeyes winning the national championship next year.

“I line shopped, and PointsBet had the best odds, +700. I throw my $150 on it, it spins and spins. Again, this is $150 on a college football future that won’t be decided until a year from now, and they spin the circle and reduce the odds. I can literally see the odds reduce while it’s spinning. They didn’t even change the odds after. They literally changed the odds as I was making the bet.”

Olsen said he watched the odds get lowered to +550 while his bet was still being reviewed.

“Then they gave me the +700, but reduced the wager to $50, and it was placed automatically. They didn’t give me the option if I wanted to continue with the bet.”

Olsen isn’t alone. Zack Price is a professional gambler and host of the Denver Sports Betting Show on 98.1 Mile High Sports.

“I moved the Memphis Grizzlies from 40-to-1 to 25-to-1 last night,” Price told me a few weeks back. “It’s just fun for me at this point. I was out on a date and showed her how I could lower the Red Wings odds. I don’t even bet hockey, and I knocked them down to 100-to-1 from 300-to-1. It was on a $100 bet.”

Of course, for Price, it didn’t start out as a parlor trick. In fact, his PointsBet experience was aces – at least at first.

“I became a VIP customer. They had me on Platinum status with a dedicated host, they gave me hundreds of dollars of bonuses a week, they offered me 15% on any deposit I made,” he said. “It was great. Then I started noticing my bets were getting limited. I’d put down $200, they’d give me $25. Then I started getting the spinny wheel of death. It would spin forever. Then I noticed after they would reduce my bets, they’d change the odds, every single time.

“They would change my side of the odds, but not the other side. If I wanted to go under 7.5 rebounds at -110, I’d put in $200, they’d limit me to $20, and then they’d change the -110 to -140, but the over stayed at -110. To make matters worse, when this was happening, I’d reach out and they went dark on me. No more VIP — tried to contact people up top, nothing. Radio silence.”

Today, Price rarely uses PointsBet.

“I do still make bets with them, but I very rarely get a bet through,” Price said. “Very rarely. Every single bet spins for a minute or two, sometimes five or 10 minutes. It spins, it spins, it spins, they give you a fraction of what you want to bet, and then they change the odds for the worse.”

Pointsbet Wheel
‘Please Wait’ – 15 seconds, even on a $5 free bet on a two-leg NFL parlay

Investors are fed up

Even investors in the company – the stock has been battered like many in the sportsbook space, down to $3.36 from a 52-week high of $13.16 – have had enough of the shenanigans.

“My deal with PointsBet: I was an investor in PointsBet since the IPO in Australia, and I later invested more in them in March 2020, when the stock was down to $1/AUS a share when the market was crashing,” said Jason Weingarten, the host of Wide World of Weingarten on VSiN. “I like them as a business. They do a lot of interesting stuff. They don’t have a big market share, but they have that deal with NBC, so they’re out there a lot.”

Clearly, this is a man who has every interest in seeing PointsBet succeed. At least “had” every interest, as he’s vastly reduced his position in the company.

“I bet a lot of futures,” Weingarten told me. “Last year I was trying to bet Carlos Rodon at 30-to-1, 40-to-1 or something to win the Cy Young. It was a $100 bet, but they limited it to $20.  What’s the point of even offering the markets if you’re not going to let me add to my portfolio? And it wasn’t a great bet. They should be happy to book futures action with a high hold like that. As an investor, that’s just awful bookmaking. Don’t offer the market if you’re not going to take the bet.”

Weingarten said he has had the same problem multiple times with PointsBet.

“I’m a shareholder and this is stupid,” he said.

Clive Bixby (not his real name) considers himself a “semi-professional gambler,” and said all of this has happened so many times to him, he finally decided to take to Twitter about it. 

“I went to place a bet on an NBA total — nothing crazy, there was no injury news, nothing,” he said. “They had a number up, it had been there for a while, and when I went to bet it, they declined it completely. It was to win $1,000, and the wheel spun and spun and spun. As it was spinning, I watched the line move a point-and-a-half in the other direction. And this wasn’t an alternate market; this was their baseline and they just said ‘no.’ I understand limiting, I understand why a book would change the odds. But all I ask for is a little bit of transparency, and whatever this is, it’s not cool.”

Even losing bets get flagged

Justin Van Zuiden, who works for US Bets sister site RotoGrinders, experienced all of this and more when he signed up for PointsBet around Christmastime.

“I keep an eye out for good lines,” he told me. “I happened to notice some of their tennis lines were off. It was a John Isner tennis match. They had a first set over/under set at 10.5 at +130. Everyone else had it -110. I placed a $500 bet and it went through fine.”

It also lost. But Van Zuiden’s bet triggered something deep in the recesses of the PointsBet algorithm, and since then, it has been limit after limit, spinny wheel after spinny wheel, odds change after odds change.

I was getting limited on everything,” he said. “So I started testing random stuff, throwing $50 here and there, and they kept moving the line. There was a hockey game I was messing around with, where the over/under started at 5.5, I put $50 down, they limited me and moved the line. I bet the smaller amount, then they moved it to 6. I put another $50 down, they limited me and moved the odds again. Basically, any bet I try to make – except for some pregame NFL bets under $100 – they limit me and move the line while I’m watching.”

It’s not exactly a recipe for happy customers. But as far as PointsBet is concerned, all of the above are isolated incidents that don’t speak to the general user experience.

In speaking with our customer service team, we are not receiving similar complaints beyond an extremely small level that is less than the industry standard,” said Jeffrey Altstadter, PointsBet’s director of publicity. “While we will continue to monitor our best-in-class app and technology, we’re certain that these unfortunate instances were a very small blip that does not reflect our common user’s experience. However, we are always looking for ways to learn and improve and this will be no different.”

Well, here’s hoping PointsBet smooths this out. Truth is, I enjoy using PointsBet, especially their “PointsBetting” feature, which is one-of-a-kind in the U.S. sports betting space. I have also found them to be quicker than most in getting markets up, and in my experience, customer service has been speedy and responsive.

While I do experience a 10- to 15-second spinny wheel more often than not, I haven’t experienced the odds-changing shenanigans. But I will say this: If I ever tried to get a bet down and watched, with my own eyes, the odds get worse as my spinny wheel keeps on spinnin,’ a different CCR song would come to mind.

Photo: Shutterstock

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