Conference postponements create havoc for sportsbooks

Conference postponements create havoc for sportsbooks

With the COVID-19 pandemic having a major impact on yet another sport, casinos and sportsbooks are once again scrambling to figure out how to adjust.

And in the wake of the Pac-12 and Big Ten announcing Tuesday that they have suspended all fall sports with no set return date, ESPN reported Wednesday that sportsbooks have stopped taking bets on college football, and are in the process of sorting out which futures bets are still valid and which are in line for a refund. According to the report, Caesars Sportsbook, for instance, considers bets on teams from the Big Ten or Pac-12 to win the national championship still live since house rules dictate wagers are good as long as a national champion is declared in 2021.

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Futures bets on a Heisman Trophy winner are also valid at Caesars, as long as the award is presented before March 31.

But BetMGM’s Jeff Stoneback told ESPN that if a champion is declared, their policy is that any bets on teams that did not play will be refunded.

“We would refund the teams that don’t play,” Stoneback said. “If you’ve got teams that are in there now and they play the season and a champion is declared, we’d pay off on that. If you’ve got LSU and they’re declared the winner, you’d get paid. If you have USC, we’ll give you a refund.”

Another potential headache for future bettors could arise if all Power 5 conferences suspend their seasons but one or more Group of Five conferences do play a season and the NCAA declares a national champion out of that group.

“If Drake plays Northern Iowa in what the NCAA says is the national championship game, then everyone’s on the hook,” Jeff Davis of Caesars told ESPN. But some books specify that a team must win the “College Football Playoff Championship Game” in order for a futures bet on that team to pay out.

Other books, such as FanDuel, are simply freezing all bets, as well as potential refunds, as it waits to see how the fall season plays out. It is using what is known as an “act of God” stipulation in the house rules as it decides how to proceed.

“That’s a mess,” Stoneback told ESPN.

–Field Level Media ()