Sportsbooks Differ on Refunds After Harrowing Scene for Bills-Bengals

With the stunning injury to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin where he suffered cardiac arrest on the field, sportsbooks took a wait-and-see approach on refunding bets, but most had made the decision by Thursday to void the wagers.

In the 1st quarter of the Bills-Bengals Monday Night Football game January 2, Bills safety Damar Hamlin made a routine tackle on Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins; he then collapsed on the field after suffering cardiac arrest. Medical staff immediately administered CPR on Hamlin and were able to restart his heart, which ultimately saved his life—Hamlin remains in critical condition, but has regained consciousness and movement.

Once the shock of the incident wore off, coupled with Hamlin’s amazing recovery process, sportsbooks had a decision to make: what to do with the thousands of wagers that were placed on the postponed game—now cancelled.

The day after the game, several sportsbooks were in a holding pattern, not sure whether the bets should be considered live or to refund money to customers.

The NFL was noncommittal on whether the game would be suspended or rescheduled. After the game, the NFL held a conference call and the Associated Press asked what was the status of the game’s future.

“That’s not the consideration right now,” replied Jeff Miller, the executive vice president of communications for the NFL. “Our concern is for the player and his well-being. At the appropriate time, I’m sure that we’ll have a conversation around the next steps regarding the game.”

The next day, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the game would be cancelled.

That was of little guidance for sportsbooks, who would keep the action live if the game was going to be played.

DraftKings posted a statement on Twitter.

“When an official decision is made regarding the status of the game, we will assess the situation and communicate accordingly.”

Caesars and PointsBet kept mum on their plans, but a spokesperson for WynnBET told Sports Handle, “Our house rules state that all wagers would be void if the event were to not be played within 24 hours of the postponement,” indicating bettors there should expect their money back shortly.

By Thursday, however, the majority of sportsbooks had ruled the bets void. Bally Bet, BetMGM, Caesars, FanDuel and Hard Rock all announced the cancellation of bets.

Circa Sportsbook said its house rules were clear regarding the settlement of bets.

“Per our house rules, all football games must be played within eight days of the originally scheduled date and take place within a 100-mile radius of the originally scheduled venue,” Jeff Benson, Circa’s operations manager, told Sports Handle. “Once we have more understanding from the league as to when this game will be completed, then we’ll be able to refund any affected markets if the game won’t fall in that eight-day window.”

The AP eventually reported on January 5 that the NFL was canceling the game and it would not be rescheduled. That would mean that at most sportsbooks the bets would be refunded.

Two future bets that thankfully were not affected by the game was the season win total for both teams. Both the Bills and Bengals already hit their overs the previous week.

But the cancelled game between two division leaders in the AFC threw the playoffs into turmoil. The AFC championship game—penultimate to the Super Bowl, will now be played at a neutral site should either of these teams advance. The cancelled game would have decided who hosted the AFC playoff.