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Rovell: $1 Million ‘Bachelor’ Scandal Has DraftKings Concerned, But Not for the Reason You’d Think


Andrew Toth/Getty Images for New York Magazine. Pictured: Tanner Tolbert and Jade Roper

We are on Day 5 of the “Bachelor” DraftKings $1 million winner controversy, and there’s no sign that a resolution will happen any time soon.

DraftKings has more on the line in this decision than anything in its history since battling states over daily fantasy not being “gambling” threatened its livelihood.

And while the contest that was won by former “Bachelor” and “Bachelor in Paradise” contestant Jade Roper Tolbert was for $1 million in daily fantasy winnings, make no mistake, DraftKings is treating this like a gambling decision.

As soon as Tolbert won, the alarm bells went off for critics within the daily fantasy community. They took to Twitter to show data suggesting Tolbert and her husband Tanner worked together to circumvent DraftKings’ rules for its Millionaire Maker contest.

The allegation? That the Tolberts conspired, giving themselves a better chance to win.

For their part, Tanner Tolbert told ESPN that while they used lineup optimizers, which is totally kosher, they came up with their own rosters independently and rooted for their own players. Tanner told The Action Network Friday that the couple’s lawyer advised them against discussing further until a decision is reached.

So why is DraftKings treading more carefully than it would have, say, a year ago? Because while daily fantasy still makes up the majority of DraftKings’ revenue, that won’t be the case by the end of this year.

Are they hoping that the Twittersphere forgets the story? Nope. DraftKings executives care less about public perception here than people think they do.

DraftKings is really concerned about the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and politicians.

DraftKings’ merger with SB Tech is set to result in the company going public this year. Going into the review process before going public, the company doesn’t want any public black eyes on the brand. Especially if it decides to take away the money, the story — whose reality show tie-in has already made it national news — will get bigger. It also means that the process that it is undergoing now is going to be scrutinized down the road.

Now comes the hard part: Does the black eye occur if DraftKings awards the money or if it doesn’t award the money? What’s being fair? What’s abiding by the company rules.

We don’t know how DraftKings is going to interpret this because they’ve said nothing other than confirming there is an ongoing investigation.

The other constituency that matters? Politicians. They have the ability to lock DraftKings out of newly legal betting states, and the perception that it isn’t being fair in this instance could impact how politicians view DraftKings.

While this is technically about the result a daily fantasy contest, the ramifications are much larger, which is made clear by how DraftKings’ executives are taking their time to make this decision.

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