Sportsbooks were just two seconds away from losing millions.
Las Vegas Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson made a field goal with two seconds remaining in overtime, clinching a victory for his team, but more important for sportsbooks, eliminating the possibility the game would end in a tie.
In the last week of the NFL regular season, both the Raiders and Chargers were fighting for a playoff spot. But due to a quirk in the NFL playoff standings, a one-of-a-kind scenario emerged: if the game ended in a tie, both teams would clinch a postseason birth.
Theoretically, if both teams elected to kneel down on every play of the game, they could guarantee a playoff spot for their franchise. If not, the team risked not making the postseason at all.
This potential tie scenario led thousands of bettors to wager on the long-shot possibility of a tie game in the NFL, something that happens less than 1% of the time.
To tie a game in the NFL, a game needs to go into overtime and at the end of the 10-minute overtime period, the score must remain tied.
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Normal odds for a tie in the NFL from sportsbooks are about +6000, or 60/1. This would profit the bettor 60 times what he or she originally bet. However, as sportsbooks received more and more bets as the game drew closer, they considerably lowered the odds to counteract their massive liability — DraftKings
for example changed the odds to +1400 about an hour before the game.
Representatives from the Flutter Entertainment-owned FanDuel Sportsbook confirmed to MarketWatch that the company was at risk of losing “more than $10 million” if the game ended in a tie.
Fellow legal U.S. sports betting operator, PointsBet, also stated that liability on a potential tie in the Raiders-Chargers game was over a million dollars for their sportsbook.
“I know it was unintentional,” DraftKings sportsbook director Johnny Avello told ESPN after the game. “But Steven Spielberg couldn’t have written and directed a better script.”