How Sportsbooks Will Handle New NFL COVID-19 Forfeit Rules This Season

How Sportsbooks Will Handle New NFL COVID-19 Forfeit Rules This Season article feature image

Carolyn Kaster/Pool/AFP via Getty Images. Pictured: Former Dallas Cowboys star Emmitt Smith and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

The National Football League notified teams Thursday that if a coronavirus outbreak occurs among unvaccinated players and causes the game to not be rescheduled, the team experiencing the outbreak will be forced to forfeit.

A forfeit would not be required for an outbreak that occurs among vaccinated players and staff, according to the league memo.

It's currently unclear what would occur if an outbreak involves both non-vaccinated and vaccinated people or what the threshold is that determines whether an outbreak would be classified as unvaccinated or vaccinated.

For practical purposes, a forfeit would count as a loss for the team with the outbreak and a win for the opposing team, though it will not factor into draft positions or waiver priorities. A forfeit, as opposed to a cancellation, could spell doom for some teams in the playoff hunt.

However, for betting purposes, there's only a small difference between whether a game is canceled or forfeited. At sportsbooks like BetMGM and DraftKings, all bets placed on a game that results in a forfeit or cancelation would be voided, their representatives told The Action Network.

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With BetMGM, all win total futures bets made on the two teams associated with a forfeit or cancelation would be voided if the win total has not yet been realized. For example, all bets placed on the Kansas City Chiefs total of 12.5 wins would void if a game of theirs is canceled or forfeited before they reach 13 wins.

BetMGM spokesperson John Ewing said a caveat here would be if the Chiefs already have more than 12 wins. Futures bets would then be honored. That means if a cancelation happens in Week 16, but the Chiefs are already 13-2, futures bets on over 12.5 wins would be paid out and under 12.5 would lose.

DraftKings is taking a similar approach. If the Chiefs were in the same Week 16 situation, bets on over 12.5 wins would be honored and wagers on under 12.5 would lose, spokesperson Stephen Miraglia told The Action Network.

Miraglia said the sportsbook would address other futures bets — including divisional winners, Super Bowl futures and more — on a case-by-case basis in the event of a forfeiture.

"It's always a customer first approach that we take," he said.

Representatives from PointsBet were unavailable to answer questions regarding whether game or futures bets would be honored in the event of a forfeit.

PointsBet did mention their house rules, which dictate that any wagers made on a game that is canceled or postponed for more than 48 hours would be refunded. Whether those rules will apply to forfeits remains to be seen.

When posed a similar line of questioning, FanDuel spokesperson Kevin Hennessy sent the below statement.

"We have certain house rules that govern situations like forfeits that are approved by state regulators, but we always try to do right by the customer if there is an injustice in the sports world that impacts our customers," Hennessy said.

The house rules read that: "If an event or events occur beyond the reasonable control of the FanDuel Sportsbook such as an epidemic, pandemic, flood, fire, earthquake, element of nature or act of God, act of war, terrorism, riot, rebellion, strike, blockade, labor disruption or other cause, that materially impact any sporting or other event (or a series of events in a season) … the FanDuel Sportsbook may, acting in good faith, exercise its discretion to void, cancel, restrict or otherwise alter or adjust the payout (in whole or in part) of the affected wager(s) placed on the relevant market."

The spokesperson did not address The Action Network's requests for elaboration regarding which types of bets would be voided and which ones would be honored. Also not addressed were questions regarding futures bets as a whole.

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