Unresolved NFL schedule creates uncertainty for sportsbooks, fantasy sports sites

While the health of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin remains foremost on the minds of NFL fans and players, the league’s unprecedented decision to suspend Monday night’s game between the Bills and Cincinnati Bengals after Hamlin’s on-field cardiac arrest has led to unavoidable uncertainty in the worlds of sports gambling and fantasy football. Adding to the confusion was the NFL’s announcement Tuesday that the Bills-Bengals game will not be resumed this week and that the league has not made any changes to its Week 18 schedule.

The gambling side of the question is easier to answer, because every sportsbook has terms of service that establish how it handles such scenarios. And while most if not all sportsbooks do not consider Monday’s game to be official—the general rule is that 55 minutes of game time must be played, and the Bills-Bengals game was halted in the first quarter—here are minor differences as to whether and when bets will be declared void and refunded.

At Circa Sports, for instance, football games must be played within eight days of their originally scheduled date and must be played within a 100-mile radius of the originally scheduled site or venue. Circa has yet to refund bets on the Bills-Bengals game because there still is a chance it could be played by Tuesday, eight days after the original date. At BetMGM and Caesars, the window is one week after the originally scheduled date, though BetMGM announced Tuesday that it was voiding all unsettled wagers involving the game.

But other sportsbooks have a much smaller window for completion. DraftKings rules say halted football games must be completed within 48 hours of the scheduled start date or else all bets will be considered void; it also will refund bets if a game is halted and then replayed in full. FanDuel football bets are refunded if the postponed game is not finished “within the same scheduling week,” which for the NFL generally means Thursdays through the following Wednesday (BetRivers also employs this time frame).

PointsBet, meanwhile, voids bets on all games that are suspended before completion and on postponed matches that are moved to a date more than 48 hours in the future.

If gamblers had a parlay leg still alive for Monday’s game, sportsbooks will remove that leg if bets on that game are considered void, and the parlay will be paid out based on the lesser number of legs.

The fantasy football side of the equation is much trickier to solve. Most season-long fantasy leagues hold their championship games in Week 17, and a sizable number of those title-game participants still had players remaining in Monday night’s game. Fantasy football operators have given players several options, depending on whether the NFL moves forward with the Bills-Bengals game.

Under CBS Sports’ terms of service, statistics from each week are considered final on the following Thursday morning, and because the Bills-Bengals game will not be finished by then, no fantasy points will be handed out from that game (NFL players from that game are marked down as “bye” on CBS Sports’ fantasy scoreboards). CBS Sports allows league operators to manually change game scores, either by adding players’ fantasy scores from their Week 18 games or from a rescheduled Bills-Bengals game, if that occurs, or by simply counting the points accrued before Monday’s game was called off.

Yahoo will not pay out any prize money “until a final decision is made by the NFL on the Bills-Bengals game status,” the company said in a message on its website. If the NFL declares the Bills-Bengals game final with a 7-3 score, Yahoo will count the fantasy points accrued in that game, but if the NFL cancels the game, those fantasy points will be wiped away. If the Bills-Bengals game is resumed, Yahoo will add the fantasy points accrued to Week 17 scores, even if it means a change in the result of a fantasy contest. Yahoo also allows fantasy commissioners to manually adjust scoring, “but we encourage commissioners to wait until the NFL makes a final decision on the game’s status,” the company said.

The FFPC, another fantasy operator, said it will count the stats accrued from Monday’s game because “they are currently official and have not been deleted by the NFL.” The FFPC will not count any stats if the Bills-Bengals game is resumed or replayed, because its terms of service state that NFL games “must be played before the following week’s games begin” for statistics to count.

“FFPC’s Week 17 is now considered complete and official,” the company said, and it will award season prizes once the Week 17 statistics become final Friday.

DraftKings, which offers daily fantasy contests, canceled its showdown and flash-draft contests involving only the Bills-Bengals game and refunded entry fees. Any daily fantasy player who had Bills or Bengals players in the lineup of a classic contest, involving NFL games from throughout Week 17, will at least receive their entry fees back, and those contests will be scored based on current, accrued points. Its best-ball contests, in which daily fantasy managers draft 20 NFL players and accrue points based on which players perform the best, “will remain live until the NFL makes a final determination on the game’s status. If the game is not played, we will pay out based on current standings,” the company said.

Joe Bryant of Football Guys, a fantasy-advice website, says that a certain amount of grace is needed when resolving this unprecedented situation: “Be kind to your Commissioner and fellow GMs and take your time working this out,” Bryant tweeted. “There’s no need to rush. Above all, I don’t think you can go wrong with putting the highest value on unity and harmony, and camaraderie.”

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