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Peer-to-peer payment platform Venmo doesn’t allow gambling. However, that hasn’t stopped people from using the app to discreetly (or not so discreetly) settle their bets—particularly their Super Bowl bets.
The Outline used Venmo’s public API to peruse the app’s transactions that took place Sunday evening. It found that 44 percent of Sunday night’s Venmo payments included Super-Bowl-related verbiage and 14 percent straight-up referenced betting or gambling. There were about 837,100 total transactions that took place that night—139,500 Venmo payments per hour. And according to the Outline’s calculations, anywhere from 65,000 to 370,000 of those transactions were Super Bowl bet-related.
To get those numbers, the Outline’s Paris Martineau searched keywords such as “football” and “Super Bowl” and cross-referenced them with gambling-related phrases such as “bet,” “prop,” or “squares.”
The traffic on Venmo was high enough that evening that many complained about the slowness of the app. Others were laughing—or crying—over the bets they’ve got to settle now.
About to get my paycheck and literally about to give my paycheck to all the bets I owe on Venmo for the Patriots losing in the Super Bowl lol— Jack Carmassi (@jackcarmassi) February 7, 2018
My entire Venmo timeline is people losing money on the Super Bowl.— Jack Falahee (@RestingPlatypus) February 5, 2018
Beginning in 2015, a site called Vicemo has also used Venmo’s public API to aggregate public transactions involving vices like drugs, sex, or alcohol. It doesn’t collect gambling-related payments, though.
However, not all of these Super Bowl-related payments may have been about gambling. Some were legitimate, Venmo-approved transactions. Take for example this poor fellow who was surprised with a bill for his stake in a party he attended.
Why host a #SuperBowl party and then the next day request Venmo payments for the food and drinks? I would have gladly brought my own. Next time host a potluck or don’t charge people if you’re hosting! #ridiculous— Santiago Svidler (@SantiSvid) February 6, 2018
Hopefully not too many other Super Bowl partygoers experienced this particular predicament. The surprise Venmo request is decidedly not cool.
H/T the Outline
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.