How Sportsbooks Handle Retroactive Results & Fixed Matches

Photo Credit: By Realistkilla (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

It seems so simple. You bet on a sporting event, you watch the game, and either you win or lose your wager. The best handicappers make money and put the results in perspective for the future, while the general public loses on the whole and overreacts to the most recent events.

But it isn’t always that easy. Sometimes a force majeure throws the entire paradigm upside down and leaves bettors — expert or otherwise — wondering, “What happens now?” After Jon Jones was stripped of his win over Daniel Cormier at UFC 214 due to a failed drug test, many Cormier backers were asking just that.


WHAT HAPPENS NOW? UNFORESEEABLE EVENTS & SPORTS BETTING

 

RETROACTIVE CHANGES

Every now and again, the result of an event will change after it has been completed, such as the Jones/Cormier fight. It’s not confined to failed drug tests. Protests occasionally yield the need to replay or restart a game, and John Calipari has seen several of his championship banners taken down from the rafters for using players who were ineligible or found to have done something wrong. Do people who bet on the initial winners have to forfeit their money? Do people who bet on the post-hoc winners get to cash in?

The short answer is no. Sportsbooks can’t do anything about these circumstances. If you bet on Jones when he knocked out Cormier last month, you’re a winner. If you bet on Cormier, you’re a loser. Though the UFC may suspend Jones or alter the result of the fight, sportsbooks grade events the day they take place. Unless the change in decision comes very quickly — like an inquiry during a horse race that is determined immediately — the winning side at the end of the game/match will cash regardless of what happens much later.

SPORTSBOOK ERRORS

Most of the best online sportsbooks build rules into their user agreements that allow them to erase their own mistakes. When they accidentally post obviously erroneous lines, the results are voided. When they post lines where both sides can win or lose, the events are graded as “no action.” If their software fails and you are allowed to bet after a game starts, your wager is considered “past-post” and is canceled. If a game’s date changes, or is suspended or postponed or rescheduled, there is no action. Should a sportsbook list the venue of an event wrong, the bet will not count.

TENNIS

As experienced bettors know, tennis is its own beast and has several unique wagering rules. Because matches are frequently suspended (meaning paused), most sites impose a week time-limit for matches to be completed before bets are canceled. If you bet on Rafael Nadal to win a match which starts on Wednesday, your bet will count as long as the match is completed in the next seven days.

Tennis also has more than its share of retirements/walkovers (meaning players either pull out prior to the scheduled match starting or quit in the middle). Not every sportsbook handles “walkovers” the same, but most consider it “no action” when a player concedes before a match starts. Whether you bet on the player who advanced or the player who pulled out, your wager will be refunded.

But what about when players retire during a match? This is where things can get tricky. The majority of books will refund all bets if a player retires during the first set. If the first set is completed, most sites will treat the match as official and payout bettors who backed the advancing player. Other sites, however, refund all bets when a match does not feature a player winning the requisite number of sets.

THE FIX IS IN

Sportsbooks tend to quickly halt wagering on events that look fishy. If, out of the blue, a line dramatically changes because of a betting surge on one side, books reserve the right to not only stop taking bets, but cancel all wagers on the match. As described in the sections above, if the event concludes, and the investigation comes much later, there will be no retroactive change in winning and losing bets, even if it becomes apparent that the game/match was rigged. Hopefully you didn’t bet on the Black Sox!