Online sports bettors trying to sort out options after coronavirus cancellations
This week has been one of the wildest on record due to the steady growth of the caronovirus and nowhere has it been crazier than in the sports world. With almost every event cancelled worldwide for at least a month, the one thing that many Americans cling to in times of despair is sports. And now that has been taken away by COVID-19 too.
And for sports bettors, it's a double whammy. Not only are there no sports to watch, there is almost nothing to bet on. The odds boards have been cleared at sportsbooks worldwide except for a few events and some futures for the PGA, tennis and cycling.
Anxious future bettors
With the NBA and NHL halting their seasons and the NCAA cancelling their post-season tournaments, bettors who placed wagers on season total wins, conference and league champions are holding their breath. We reached out to every major online sportsbook and even heard from a few U.S. books regarding future tickets on seasons that right now, are in limbo.
For the major sports leagues, which are still trying to sort out if they will continue their seasons or head straight to the playoffs, all futures wagers will stay as open bets until an official announcement and decision has been made from each league regarding the remainder of each sport's season. As one online sportsbook located in Costa Rica told us, "Obviously there will be some futures (NCAA) that will be no action, but it’s too early to determine some of the others."
Currently all futures for NBA, NHL and MLB are off-the-board, but players can look to EU soccer leagues and NFL for future betting action.
Balances, refunds and potential closures
Within hours of the announcement telling us all that March Madness was over, we had our first player on the OSGA chat. He had deposited just to play on NCAA basketball this week and throughout the BigDance and was looking for a refund, as there was nothing for him to bet. He was told from the tiny operation he plays with that he still had to roll over his deposit, essentially a "too bad" buddy moment.
So we checked with the top online sportsbooks to see what legit, real deal operations were going to do with this unique situation.
Each sportsbook that responded noted that there is no 'blanket policy' to cover this kind of thing, but players who have recently deposited with either Bitcoin or via credit card can be refunded . . . if they have not wagered. For players who have placed bets, it may be another story. One book told us that they may be lenient and process withdrawals for players who have used their deposits to wager, on a case-by-case basis. But every book that replied told us that for players who have used free plays and cash bonuses, plus their own funds, the active account must stay open and funded.
After 21+ years in this industry, I can also tell you that the 'case-by-case' basis has a lot to do with several factors, including how long a player has been with a sportsbook, if a player's betting pattern indicates that they only play football and basketball and, unfortunately, if the customer is a winning or losing player. In other words, if a player has been kicking in the teeth of his favorite sportsbook over the last three years, the book may not be quite as lenient in processing a refund or withdrawal.
The scariest thing for us here at OSGA is knowing that many smaller sportsbook and newer operations run on very slim margins, meaning that they don't have a lot of reserve funds or contingency plans for a stoppage in sports betting. As there will be very little betting volume over the next month or so, we fear that the Jetwins and BettheLines of the sports betting world will use this as an excuse to shut down operations and disappear with player funds.
Players at the top online sportsbooks, operations that have been around for a decade or more, as well as licensed books in the U.S. will have no problem weathering this storm and player balances (and future tickets) will be safe. It's the new, small shops that players should be concerned about.
Optimism among the giants of the industry
More than one sportsbook thinks that this stoppage will be short lived. A representative from industry giant BetOnline stated, "If I was a betting man, I'd say that things will kick off the Monday following Easter Sunday (April 12), but time will tell." And everyone’s hope is that after a stoppage, the leagues will get the sports up and running quickly and, as Heritage Sports said, "hopefully return to some form of schedule."
But, in the meantime, bets are slim pickings at sportsbooks worldwide. The UFC is going to continue their matches, albeit with no fans, including UFC Brasilia on Saturday, featuring a main event with Kevin Lee (-142) taking on Charles Oliveria. Darts, KHL hockey and some smaller soccer leagues are on the betting board, as well as eSports and Corona virus props at many shops. There are also "virtual sports", which are fixed odds games with no real event behind them. For example, our friends at Bovada.lv have odds on virtual camel racing!
Players who have concerns about their accounts or legitimate trouble withdrawing from their favorite sportsbook can contact us at OSGA via chat, email or via our complaint form. Meanwhile, we’ll stay on top of this story and hope that the sports betting drought doesn’t continue for too long.
Check back every week for The Betting Scene as we will highlight new items of interest in the world of online sports betting.