RAMPED-UP RISK OF BETTING DURING COVID-19

Late last Saturday afternoon prior to the Sunday game between the NFL’s Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints, Denver announced that all of its quarterbacks had tested positive for Covid-19 and would be out of action.  The team even tried to activate its quarterbacks coach but the move was denied by the NFL.  After Denver’s revelation, the betting line promptly soared from New Orleans being a 6 or 6 ½ point favorite to a 15 or 16 point favorite.  (New Orleans easily covered the spread, winning by 30-3.)

As this game and others illustrate, Covid-19 has ramped up the risk to sports bettors because of sports-book rules that mostly prohibit bettors from changing or canceling wages once they have been made.  For instance, FanDuel Sportsbook policy states:

“Per our terms and conditions, you will not be able to cancel a wager once placed through our services.”

BetMGM policy is slightly more lenient:

“Can I cancel a bet that I’ve already placed?

No.  Bets accepted will not be changed or voided upon confirmation of the successfully placed bet.  If you made an inadvertent bet on your account due to an error (e.g., inadvertent multiple identical bets), you must inform BetMGM Customer Service within 15 minutes of the bet being placed in order for BetMGM to consider if appropriate adjustments should be made to your account.”

Under the provisions of such policies, bettors who had placed wagers on the Denver Broncos before Saturday afternoon were out of luck, stuck with an almost certain losing point spread of 6 or 6 ½ points.

Horse-race betting is more forgiving.  With some restrictions, when a bettor places a wager on a horse race with an advanced deposit wagering company like TwinSpires or TVG, the person may have a change of mind and can cancel the wager prior to the race starting.  TVG policy, for example, reads: 

“Wager cancellations are limited to 20 wagers a day and 200 a month or $5,000 a day and $25,000 a month, whichever comes first.  Some states have additional restrictions…TVG does not guarantee cancellation of a wager.  Future wagers and wagers placed on Hong Kong tracks cannot be canceled.  Cancellations that, in the opinion of TVG management, may cause substantial altering of odds, prices, or betting totals will be denied.”

Similarly, bettors at a racetrack are typically able to change wagers they have made and most tracks will allow bettors to cancel wagers entirely, with some of the state-by-state limitations that apply to Internet wagering.

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