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Sportsbook VIP Programs Ain’t What They Used To Be, Bettors Say


Back in the old days of legal online sports betting — you know, like 2018 and 2019 — the sportsbooks sure seemed to be doing a lot more whale fishing.

“The gist of it is the VIP stuff was very good in the past, now it’s gone way down,” said Sid M., a New Jersey sports bettor. “FanDuel never had much of anything there, but FOX Bet and DraftKings — in the past, they were very good.”

Sid remembers one time he was having trouble with the DraftKings app.

“I emailed them in 2018 and said I was having issues with the app on my phone,” he recalls. “I get a call, they ask where I live. They tell me, ‘We have one of our people going to Meadowlands next week, can he stop by my house?’ I said sure. A week later, he rings my doorbell and hands me a new iPhone. That still amazes me. He just stopped by and handed me an Apple X phone.”

He also recalls both DraftKings and FOX Bet setting him up with a dedicated host, providing dinners on the house, having jerseys of his favorite teams delivered overnight, sending invitations to sporting events.

“This was all early on, probably no later than 2019,” Sid said.

As to how this happened?

“I was wagering a considerable amount,” he said. “On DraftKings, if you count total money risked, with sports betting, casino, and DFS? Millions of dollars a year, hundreds of thousands of dollars a month.”

And apparently, DraftKings wanted to keep him happy.

These days?

“It’s very different now,” he said. “New Jersey was the only place it was legal at first, and I was one of the earliest customers, so I was probably at the very, very top of the food chain. Now it’s legalized in so many states, maybe I’m not [so important] anymore. I don’t know how they operate — maybe I’m not in the ‘upper upper’ anymore. It’s very different.”

How different?  

“Before, the host was very helpful,” Sid said. “I met him once or twice, anytime there was a problem, I’d just email him, he’d make it right. Now, my host is technically there to assist me, but requires screenshots and proof before any action is taken. It’s just different.”

DraftKings: Yep, it’s different

Sid M. isn’t wrong: It is different.

During the Wild West days, it wasn’t as streamlined a process, a spokesman for DraftKings told SportsHandleToday, it’s mostly math.

“Status at DraftKings is achieved by earning tiers in our new loyalty program, Dynasty Rewards,” read a statement from the company. “Customers make progress towards status by earning crowns for everything they do across DraftKings. As users reach higher tiers, they unlock new and more valuable Dynasty Rewards benefits.”

There are five levels at DraftKings: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Diamond, and Onyx. Each level is attained by collecting enough “crowns,” which accrue dollar for dollar for DFS and parlay bets, but become harder to acquire the less “risky” the wagers become, culminating in needing to wager $8 on a table game to acquire a single crown.

And to reach Sid M.’s’s previous status, including a dedicated VIP host, a user would have to reach Onyx status by collecting over a million crowns a year.

“Onyx members will be assigned to a VIP Host that will provide a more customized experience based on the player’s interests and preferences,” the statement read, whereas Diamond players — that’s a 500,000 crown minimum — receive “access to a VIP team that will help members realize the best DraftKings has to offer via a white glove experience.”

DraftKings wouldn’t divulge how many users it has at the Diamond or Onyx level.

Casino play adds up quick

“It sort of came out of the blue,” said Dan, a Pennsylvania bettor. “Around the start of the 2020 NFL season, I got a text message from the DraftKings VIP team, asking me if I was interested in free bets and a deposit bonus. I said sure.”

Dan said this happened a few more times, and then he was asked if he wanted tickets to see the Washington Capitals play in D.C. He turned down the offer — his son had just been born, and D.C. was a hike. So DraftKings came back to him with an offer to see his hometown Flyers take on the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Dan accepted the offer, and even asked if his plus-1 could come.

“They said sure,” Dan said.

Based on this offer, Dan had clearly reached Diamond level, as that’s where the live experiences start being offered. How he got there, though, is instructive.

“In peak NFL season, maybe I’m betting $1,500, $2,000 a month, at the most,” he said. “But I’ll also occasionally put $200 down on blackjack and go on tears, just playing with whatever money I just threw down. It goes quick, and I was probably betting $10,000, $20,000 in a sitting.”

Tommy, a New Jersey sports bettor and casino player, had a similar — if more harrowing — story about his VIP invite.

“Basically, I was nickel and diming for weeks at a time,” Tommy said. “I’d make small sports bets, maybe $25, $40, that kind of thing. Then I’d go to the casino and play blackjack and try to win back the stake. I’d do this eight, 10, 15 times day. Make a bet, go to the casino, and win back the stake.”

If this sounds dangerous …

“I was doing this for a few weeks and accrued over $9,000 in the account,” Tommy said. “Then one day I couldn’t win the $40 back. It became $80, then $160, and then became one crazy night of huge bets. I’d win $500, lose $500, win $750, lose $750. I can’t even imagine how much I put down. A hundred K? Two hundred K? Now that I think about it, probably much more.”

Whatever the number was, it triggered the internal controls at DraftKings, and the next day, Tommy got a phone call and started getting a ton of perks. 

“In the beginning, I had a host, and if I’d lose a decent amount of money, I’d call the host and he’d look at my account and fund my account with $200 or $300,” Tommy said.

But much like the experience of Sid M., Tommy’s host came around less and less, until one day …

“Then the host went away,” Tommy said. “Why? Did my status change? I don’t know.”

Tommy did notice, however, that instead of getting cash back as an incentive, it all changed over to crowns.

“They’d usually throw me eight, maybe 10 percent back when I lost,” he said. “Now I get crowns.”

Take the cooler, leave the cannoli

One thing appears clear: The days of DraftKings and company going full-bore in an effort to mint VIPs — and shower them with gifts and prizes — seem to be over.

Instead, it’s an era of hard math and limited perks, unless you manage to get to the Diamond or Onyx level — and assuming you didn’t get there betting sports and find yourself limited.

“The last thing I remember getting was DraftKings sent me a cooler a year ago,” Sid M. said. “Before that they would invite me to Mets games, Rangers playoff games. Recently, though? A bunch of VIP promos, the spend-this-much-and-get-a-reward stuff. Nothing individualized.”

Of course, the question behind all this — and one for which no answers from DraftKings were forthcoming — is “Why?” Why change the way VIPs are invited and — seemingly — cut back on the perks? Too many whales in the ocean? Too much time, effort, and money to make these VIPs happy?

Or perhaps … it’s simply not needed anymore. If you build it, they will come, DraftKings-branded coolers or not.

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