Sportsbooks are facing some new challenges with the return of major sports leagues.
Sportsbooks across the country are going to have tough calls to make as sports return. There are so many unanswered questions that surround the coronavirus.

The “bubble” system without fans is going to create a totally different atmosphere. Bookmakers will have to take out home-court advantage when analyzing games. But how much of a difference does playing on your home court make in the spread anyway?

“Home-court/field advantage has been decreasing significantly over time across the majority of core sports,” said John Sheeran, director of trading at FanDuel. “This decrease has largely been driven by better travel planning and more centralized decision-making, leading to greater consistency and less bias towards home support.”

Positive Test Impact

One big question is whether or not a star player will have to sit out because of testing positive from the coronavirus. If so, will the bets stay valid?

“All bets are final in relation to the team futures,” said Sheeran. “It’s effectively like an injury. All bets will stand provided the season is finished as planned.

“At FanDuel, we always try to rule in bettors’ favor where possible, and I think we will use a common-sense approach in relation to markets where we can (considering our rules). In general, I expect the majority of wagers to stand.”

It might differ from different sportsbooks.

“All bets will stand as it would if a player was injured,” said BetMGM VP of Trading Jason Scott. “For every punter disadvantaged on a future or an over, there is someone else on another team and an under who is advantaged. If the player tests positive before July 31, we would consider refunds.”

Uncharted Waters

It seems like most bookmakers are trying to stay optimistic about sports returning. They can’t predict what will happen with the coronavirus, so they must assume that everything will go on as planned.

However, it’s hard to imagine that no star player will come down with the virus. With all of the testing the leagues are going to do, it will be nearly impossible to avoid. Then there will be a strict protocol for any player that tests positive, which will certainly take them out for several weeks.

The NBA and NBAPA announced that they tested all 302 NBA players going to Orlando. Out of those, 16 players tested positive. Players’ names won’t be disclosed at this time. This doesn’t even include staff and essential personnel that will have to be in the arena.

“Having been in the industry for 35 years and seeing some unusual stuff pop up, I’m confident we can handle whatever happens,” Nick Bogdanovich, Director of Trading at William Hill, said.

Hopefully, there will be less drama, and most of these questions won’t have to be assessed. If anything significant happens, these sportsbooks will have to roll with the punches.

These issues don’t stop with the NBA, as MLB and other leagues will be experiencing the same challenges. But one thing is for sure; bettors will be active during the return of professional sports.