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Odds and Ends

How bookmakers handled the NBA boycott

by Sam Panayotovich
Updated On: August 27, 2020, 10:44 pm ET

"Take it down, all of it." 

That was a direct quote told to one American sportsbook staff Wednesday afternoon once the Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic game was officially postponed due to a players' boycott.

This sportsbook, which will remain unnamed, made a quick decision to not take any more bets on anything NBA related until a solution presented itself. Other books quickly followed suit. As of Thursday morning, most sportsbooks had all of their NBA options off the board. 

So what happens if you bet on Bucks-Magic?

Well, that depends on the "house rules" at the sportsbook that took the bet. House rules are regulated rules and regulations implemented by each specific book. These rules are far from universal and they differ from shop to shop. 

Many of the sportsbooks immediately refunded all bets on any postponed games. Spreads, totals, moneylines, props, whatever. Refund. That's because most house rules state that an NBA game must play 40 minutes (or more) in order to be a graded wager. 

Meanwhile, a couple prominent sportsbooks will hold the wagered money until the game is actually played, because bets at those places are "action" no matter what. 

Rules are rules. 

"I've never seen anything like this," one sportsbook supervisor told NBC Sports. "Our phones were buzzing off the hook. Customers were complaining left and right. There was nothing we could do. We just took everything down and spent the next couple hours figuring out our game plan." 

According to NBA insiders, the league is looking to resume play relatively soon. Some say Friday, some say Saturday.

So how will sportsbooks handle potential issues like this going forward?

"We don't want to refund bets," Circa Sports sportsbook director Matt Metcalf explained. "That's the last thing we want to do. With the things that have been happening lately in the world, I don't think this is the last time that we see something like this. We're going to probably change the rules going forward, but I don't know when that'll take effect.

"For MLB postseason bets, our house rules are action. For NFL, it's eight days for action. The reason we didn't have a stipulation like this in place for NBA or NHL is because our assumption was always that the games are indoors and they'll be played that day. As soon as this happened, I mentioned we may want to change this. Of course that's a 30-day process, so you can't do it overnight." 

It's a fluid situation, but until further notice, all NBA bets are off.

Sam Panayotovich

Sam Panayotovich is a sports betting analyst from the South Side of Chicago. He'll probably pick against your favorite team a lot. Follow him @spshoot