Update: DraftKings Ontario Entry Issues Sputter Into Weekend

Written By Robyn McNeil on May 19, 2022 - Last Updated on May 20, 2022
A small rusted crown on wet sand symbolizing DraftKings sportsbook sputtering into Ontario

Editor’s note: PlayCanada reached out to DraftKings to chat about the launch and hiccups. We were scheduled to speak to Johnny Avello, DraftKings director of race and sportsbook operations; however, Avello postponed. We will continue to follow the story as things evolve.

DraftKings Ontario has entered the chat.

On May 18, six weeks after popping the cork on the competitive Ontario online casino and sports betting market, DraftKings is welcoming Ontario’s gamblers to the fold. However, various technical glitches and support problems are being reported by folks attempting to sign up at DraftKings.

Many may wonder why DraftKings — one of the top three US sportsbooks — took so long to launch in Ontario. But, for its part, the company seems unbothered. CEO Jason Robins said during a recent Q1 earnings call:

“Due to the presence of grey-market operators, many of which have been present in Ontario for several years, we do not believe that the timing of our launch will have any impact on the share we are able to achieve in that province.”

And Robins may be right. The DraftKings brand gets wide recognition due to its daily fantasy sports business. Not to mention all the free advertising thrown around as people speculated why and when DraftKings would appear.

DraftKings Ontario registration issues aplenty

Before yesterday’s launch, DraftKings president, Matt Kalish, spoke to Steve McAllister for the Toronto Star:

“We launched as soon as we could. We build our product to move into each (new) jurisdiction in a smooth way that the customer won’t notice and we think our offering will be among the best in class on Day 1.”

However, numerous customers have reported technical issues on social media and in chat rooms despite that assertion.

One of these customers, ‘tigerlily,’ also known as Brandon, participates on multiple Discord servers related to Ontario sports betting. [Discord is a voice and video instant messaging platform popular with youth, particularly the gaming community.]

So the DraftKings experience has been a lot less than smooth for Brandon. And very noticeable.

“It’s been awful,” he said via Discord private message.

“I mean, I have access to other sportsbooks. I’m now a VIP on FanDuel Sportsbook. So it’s not like I have no options. I was just really looking forward to DK because I trusted them based on my history with their DFS side.”

Bettors run afoul of DK technical issues

Before DraftKings launched sports betting in Ontario, Brandon played DFS with DK for “a good 10 years.” Unfortunately for DFS players, DraftKings (and FanDuel) shuttered their fantasy markets ahead of their respective sports betting launches.

A bit of background:  Ontario regulations consider fantasy sports the same as sports betting. Regulations also require all players to be within provincial borders.

So, to keep their DFS offering in Ontario, operators would have to seriously throttle player pools and prize amounts. Rather than do that, they chose to shut ‘er down instead, leaving many customers unhappy.

But more on that in an upcoming story. For now, let’s get back to our previously scheduled programming: DraftKings technical difficulties.

Numerous users on Discord’s Ontario Sports Betting server and some Twitter users reported various issues signing up.

Some, it seems, had issues with registering at all. The problem was they couldn’t.

Others were able to register but not deposit. Still, others had their sportsbook deposit end up in DFS accounts. And some are reporting DraftKings taking USD instead of CAD. The $25 I deposited, for example, became a $33 debit.

Plus, former DFS customers can’t take advantage of new customer perks. And as of five minutes ago, there’s still no app available for iPhone.

Whomp, whomp.

Problems leave questions about DraftKings in Canada

Brandon’s issue, however, was unique. Despite being a verified DFS VIP player, his verification didn’t transfer to the sportsbook (though his VIP status did).

Initially, when he reached out to customer support, they said there was no way to help.

Live chat told Brandon they didn’t know why he couldn’t be verified, but there was nothing he or they could do about it. Brandon offered to resend verification documents but was told that wouldn’t help. The best advice customer service had was to check back “in a few months.”

He even received a follow-up email explaining as much. However, a second follow-up arrived less than 20 minutes later, saying he passed verification and DraftKings would remove the restrictions on his account.

While the outcome was good for Brandon, the experience left a sour taste in his mouth. Even with the new development, he’s hesitant to embrace DraftKings fully. Brandon said:

“Especially seeing how other sportsbooks are doing. I’ve been getting withdrawals in literally 5 minutes as opposed to DraftKings, which I know would be a couple of days. So when I’m getting treatment like that from others, while DK can’t verify a person who has VIP status and has played for ten years, it makes me question everything.”

“These guys had six weeks to see all the problems others had and come out swinging,” he added. “And it was awful.”

Photo by Anthony Hall, Shutterstock
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Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil is a Nova Scotia-based writer and editor. She lives in Halifax in an empty nest with a mischievous cat and a penchant for good stories, strong tea, cheeseburgers, yoga, graveyards, hammocks, gardening, games, herb, and hoppy beer.

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