The sports leagues have stopped. In an effort to limit the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus and protect players, administrators, and fans, every major American sports league — and many overseas leagues as well — decided this week to halt play indefinitely.
The NBA has suspended play for 30 days and will reevaluate at that time. It’s possible that the season will resume and some or all games will be made up. It’s possible that the season will start back up again in May or June and the league will go straight into the playoffs using the current standings. It’s also possible that there will be no continuation or conclusion to this season and that it will end, like the 1994 MLB season, without a champion crowned.
There will obviously be very little for sports betting enthusiasts to wager on in the weeks ahead. But what about the bets they’ve already made?
A futures ticket always means a lengthy sweat, but under these unprecedented circumstances, the sweat is being extended, as there’s not much sportsbooks can do but wait for the leagues to take next steps.
Books assure their bettors
Wednesday evening, DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, Caesars, and others stopped taking NBA futures bets. That measure prevented additional aggravation for bettors. But there’s still the matter of what becomes of existing futures bets.
Online sportsbook Unibet sent an email to its customers Thursday explaining, as best it could, the situation and approach moving forward:
- Any future bets that were placed on the outcome of a league will stand.
- Examples of future bets include, but are not limited to, the MVP race, Rookie of the Year, 2020 Champions, etc.
- Future bets will be settled when there is an official result from the league. In the event of a season or event cancellation, affected bets will be voided.
DraftKings also sent its customers an email, with a statement from President Matt Kalish:
“We understand that where you have outstanding sportsbook wagers, there may be questions on how these markets will be settled,” Kalish wrote. “We are working diligently through all potentially impacted markets to provide clear answers. In addition to consulting the upcoming status page, you can continue to reach out to our customer experience team with any questions in the meantime.”
A FanDuel Sportsbook customer tweeted a question about refunds for NBA season win totals, and the company’s customer support account replied, “We will be awaiting confirmation from the NBA as to how the season will proceed before those markets can be determined.”
Refunds, resolutions, and possible freerolls
Whether a futures bet will be resolved or refunded depends greatly on the league and the type of bet.
NCAA futures bets either have been or soon will be refunded. Conference basketball tournaments were aborted midway through and will not be concluded. The March Madness championship tournament is off and will not be rescheduled.
For the NBA, NHL, and other leagues that could conceivably resume at a later date, everything must wait.
Bets on championships, or conference championships, are fairly straightforward to consider: Either the leagues will eventually crown champions or they won’t, and in the case of the latter, wagers will be refunded.
Bets on regular-season division titles will be a bit more complicated if no more games are played. Logic suggests that bets will ultimately be graded based on current standings, but sportsbooks might choose to void them and issue refunds.
Individual awards, one assumes, will proceed even if there isn’t another game played this year. It might be a while, but MVPs, Rookies of the Year, and so forth will probably be named. If there are no more regular season games in the NBA, chances are the late pushes of LeBron James for MVP and Zion Williamson for ROY will come up short and bets on the current respective favorites — Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ja Morant — will be winners.
Season-long win total bets are perhaps the most complicated. A handful of teams already clinched their over or under, and those wagers were graded once the outcome was locked in.
But if the leagues don’t play their complete regular-season schedules, all other over/under bets should, according to the rules, be voided.
That said, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some sportsbooks settle such a bet that was en route to a likely win — for example, an over bet on the Milwaukee Bucks, who presently stand at 53-12 and on pace for 67 wins after preseason lines between 55.5 and 57.5 — as a win as a goodwill gesture to the customer.
Sportsbooks are all going to take a massive hit to profits in the weeks ahead. Those with deep enough pockets will likely be willing to increase that hit to satisfy customers and keep them coming back when the sports world is able to return to normalcy.
Photo by Alonzo Adams / USA Today Sports