Sports Books Rule! – Gambling With An Edge

Sports Books Rule! – Gambling With An Edge

Ok, that title is misleading. This blog is about sports book rules.

I think every avid sports bettor has experienced the frustration of dealing with the inconsistencies in rules, whether among U.S. books, among offshore books, or between U.S. and offshore books. While some obscure situations can arise in any event that aren’t covered in any book’s rules, offered bets should have easily found, specific rules that cover most situations.

The impetus for this blog is a situation that occurred in this year’s just-completed Masters. I had bet a few futures (on a player to win) several weeks before the Masters, on Jason Day, Lanto Griffin, and some others at Westgate and MGM. (I also had Scotty Sheffler at 24-1!) The night before the Masters started, I bet on Paul Casey at long odds on the Circa Las Vegas app.

Both Lanto and Jason failed to qualify for the tournament. I assumed I’d l lost those, as my understanding of futures has always been that all bets have action in any sport (or race, such as the Kentucky Derby), whether the player (or horse) participates or not. COVID has had long-ranging effects on a lot of things, including the sports betting business. I think the situation where games were canceled or players tested positive and were forced to sit out changed the way books handled futures, among other things. I’d had another situation during the height of COVID at Westgate where a futures bet was refunded shortly before the event.

Casey withdrew from the tournament on Thursday morning shortly before his scheduled tee time, citing an injury. While I assumed I’d lost the futures I bet weeks before, I thought the Casey bet would reasonably be canceled. I went to Circa’s published rules that I could find, but they’re fairly sparse and this situation wasn’t addressed.

On Monday morning, I checked my accounts and was pleasantly surprised to find that both MGM and Westgate had refunded my bets, but Circa had graded Casey a loser! I found their customer-service email and wrote to them to question the grading. To my surprise, a couple of hours later, my phone rang and it was a manager from Circa (I wish I’d written down his name) who told to me that the Casey loser was a mis-grade and they would credit my account. We chatted for a few minutes and he explained that their rule is that once the field in any tournament is finalized, player withdrawals will be graded as no action, and my account and that of others who’d had the same bet would be credited. I don’t know how many others had the Casey bet or if anyone else questioned the grading. If not and I hadn’t contacted them, the mis-grade likely would not have been corrected. This is why it’s important to check your graded wagers and questions anything you think are mis-grades. Humans are fallible and mistakes happen.

This has been a long lead-in to the real point of this blog, which is that there needs to be a standardized rule book that covers every foreseeable situation for all bets offered by sports books. If a book wants to deviate from the standard rule (such as the new “no listed pitchers” rule adopted by some books), it simply needs to be spelled in their published rules and perhaps elsewhere easily seen. And all books need to have easily found rules.

The model for this is poker tournaments. As poker tournaments were growing in popularity and the industry was maturing, as U.S. sports books are now, poker-tournament directors from around the world got together several years ago and put together a standardized rule book to cover every conceivable situation. They also meet regularly to address unusual situations that might have arisen that weren’t covered in the current rule book.

A standardized rule book would be a great step forward for the fragmented but maturing U.S. sports betting industry. Offshore books are an important part of the sports betting industry (a discussion for another time) if for no other reason than, outside of Nevada, they’ve been at it longer than U.S. books and have learned from mistakes. In my upcoming book, All About Sports Betting, I refer readers to offshore leader Pinnacle sports book’s rules as a reference. I would much rather be able to point to U.S. books’ rules if they were complete and standardized. I asked Robert Walker, Director of Sports Book Operations for USBookmaking, how he handles unusual situations that occur and he said he includes them in his own rule book at USBookmaking (Robert’s Rules?), but that doesn’t do much for the rest of the industry.

Whether offshore books would participate in a convention to put together a standardized rule book is unknown, but I have a feeling at least the leading offshore books and pay-per-heads would, as the lion’s share of their business comes from the U.S.

The last thing I want to do is denigrate the sports book at Circa. I think it’s a great and innovative book that is helping lead the industry in the U.S. I think the way they handled the Casey situation and the level of customer service was admirable. If they truly want to be an industry leader in the U.S., perhaps they could use their clout to put the drive toward a standardized rule book in motion.