Caesars Sportsbook facing criticism over issues with New York launch

Caesars Sportsbook came under fire from bettors and a state senator this week over issues the company has been experiencing in New York.

The Caesars Sportsbook mobile app, which went live in New York on Jan. 8, suffered multiple outages during its first two weeks operating in the state. Bettors reported wagers on completed events not being graded and reflected in account balances in a timely manner, in addition to delays in processing withdrawals. The company's customer-service team was unable to handle the volume of complaints and the online-chat option was eventually disabled, resulting in lapses in communication between the sportsbook and bettors looking for answers.

"Our customers are of the utmost importance to us and we apologize for any inconvenience they've experienced since our launch in the Empire State," a Caesars spokesperson said in a statement to ESPN. "New Yorkers have tremendous passion for sports and the state operates on an unprecedented scale all its own. That scale has exposed issues in our platform and we've made numerous updates every day since launch to improve the customer experience. Additionally, we are continuing to increase our customer-service capacity to ensure we can respond more quickly. We're committed to the State of New York for the long haul and want to assure every customer that we appreciate their feedback and are working to rectify these issues as quickly as we can."

New York State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, one of the driving forces in legalizing online sports betting in the state, said he had been hearing from frustrated customers and considered Caesars' early problems to be beyond growing pains, calling them "disappointing and disheartening." Addabbo was especially concerned by delays with withdrawals and said if the issues persist, his office and the New York State Gaming Commission may need to get involved.

"This is Caesars Sportsbook, this is not some mom-and-pop operation that opened up yesterday," Addabbo told ESPN on Thursday. "We see the commercials, we know that Caesars has some success in the industry. It's not a rookie here."

Some of the confusion with Caesars was centered on a deposit bonus new customers in New York received. Caesars offered to match initial deposits from new accounts up to $3,000, in addition to giving $300 in free bets to every new signup. If a customer in New York opened their first account with Caesars Sportsbook and deposited $3,000, they would receive $3,300 in bonus money.

Before withdrawing funds from the deposit match and free bet, customers were required to place wagers totaling the amount they received from the bonuses at least once within 30 calendar days. Any wagers placed at odds greater than -300 were not included in the required play-through amount. Some bettors reportedly were trying to withdraw funds but had not met the play-through requirements. Others said they were trying to withdraw their own funds they deposited.

"Communication would alleviate a lot of the frustration," Addabbo said.

Caesars, DraftKings, FanDuel and Rush Street Interactive each launched in New York on Jan. 8. BetMGM began operating in New York last week, and four more books are completing the licensing process before launching.

The New York State Gaming Commission on Friday released figures for the period of Jan. 8-16. Caesars led the four operators with $257.5 million in bets, followed by FanDuel at $200.4 million.

Disclosure: Caesars Sportsbook and ESPN have a business partnership.