Those who bet on Jon Rahm are still being paid as winners at some sportsbooks even though he had to withdraw with a huge lead after a positive COVID-19 test. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Rahm was going to win
Jon Rahm was living the dream. He had finished the third round of the PGA’s Memorial Tournament on Saturday with a massive six-stroke lead, looking like a lock to win the competition for the second straight year. But as he walked off the 18th green, he received devastating news: he had tested positive for COVID-19 and must withdraw from the tournament. Despite this, however, several sportsbooks have decided to pay Rahm bettors as if he won.
DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, PointsBet, and William Hill all announced Saturday night that bets on Rahm will be treated as winners. Some of them are only honoring bets that had him as the outright tournament winner. FanDuel, for instance, specified in a tweet that “all straight bets” on Rahm will be paid out, and even then only in site credit, not cash.
BetMGM is paying out pre-tournament and in-play bets that had Rahm as the winner, plus bets that had him finishing in the top five, top ten, and top 20. These will be paid in cash to players’ accounts.
Some stuck to their rulebooks
Not all sportsbooks are paying Rahm bettors. Circa and the Westgate Las Vegas Race & Sports SuperBook, for instance, are sticking to their standard rules. Rahm withdrew from the tournament and therefore did not win. It has less to do with money and more to do with consistency.
I’ve shied away from any payouts that involve subjectivity”
Circa’s sportsbook director Matt Metcalf said: “Through the years, I’ve shied away from any payouts that involve subjectivity. It never leads to a good place long term from a customer perspective. That said, I am happy for people who received payment and can understand the perspective of those companies choosing to do so.”
“I have no problem that other books are using this as a marketing opportunity,” the SuperBook’s Jay Kornegay told Darren Rovell of The Athletic. “But we shouldn’t be criticized for following our house rules. We consider our book to be a players book and that manifests itself in other ways such as pricing splits and odds.”
Kornegay added that there are situations every day – James Harden getting hurt less than a minute into the first game of the second round of the NBA playoffs, for instance – that are similar “bad beats.”
The sportsbooks that paid out Rahm bets certainly took a hit. PointsBet told The Athletic that a third of its total handle on the tournament was bet on Rahm and the winner, Patrick Cantlay, combined. Nearly 40% of the money BetMGM customers wagered was on the duo.
Sportsbooks have made judgment calls before
This is not the first time that sportsbooks – internet-centric ones, in particular – have sacrificed money in the name of customer goodwill. This past October, the Indiana Hoosiers beat the Penn State Nittany Lions 36-35 in overtime. The game ended on a controversial call when six-point-underdog Indiana, needing to kick an extra point to tie the game and send it to a second overtime, decided to go for two and made it to win the game.
It was a close play as the quarterback stretched for the pylon along the sideline, so the officials reviewed it. Though it looked like the ball touched out of bounds before crossing the goal line, the refs let the play stand. Because of the controversy and likely incorrect call, DraftKings decided to refund all bets made on the Penn State moneyline.
In late 2018, while conference championship games were still going on, FanDuel opted to pay everyone who had futures bets on the Alabama Crimson Tide to win the college football national championship. The team had not even won its own conference yet. It was the odds-on favorite to win it all, so as a marketing ploy, FanDuel just decided to call the championship for Alabama ahead of time.
Alabama ended up getting trounced by Clemson in the national title game, costing the sportsbook around $400,000 (Clemson bettors were still paid, as normal).