When You Have a Sportsbook Dispute, Here's How to Handle It

How To Fight A Sportsbook Dispute

Jack Andrews
June 17, 2024


It’s inevitable! A sportsbook makes a mistake in grading a wager and it’s important that you know what to do when it happens. What are your rights? Who do you contact? And what happens if the sportsbook won’t budge? Let’s look at how to resolve a sportsbook dispute.

I’ve been a professional gambler for over 20 years and for the past four years I’ve put out content on YouTube designed to help bettors understand the world of sports betting. 

As a result of that content, I get a lot of questions from bettors through comments, email, and direct messages. By far the most common type of question is looking for help in situations where they believe the sportsbook has wronged them. Whether that be a wager that has been graded incorrectly, or a sportsbook won’t give them their money. Some people already have a shaky confidence in this emerging market and situations like these make them very upset.


Start any Sportsbook Dispute by Reading the House Rules

The first step is to make sure you are correct that the sportsbook has made an error. All sportsbooks have operating guidelines referred to as the House Rules. You can typically find these rules prominently linked on a sportsbook’s website. These rules govern how bets are decided per sport and sometimes per bet type. 

Unfortunately, there’s no universal set of house rules. You’ll find a lot of differences between sportsbooks in how they handle various bet types. For instance, if two golfers tie for the best score in the first round and you had a bet on one of them. You might get a reduced payout at one book which has what are referred to as dead heat rules, or you might get paid in full at a book which doesn’t apply dead heat rules to that wager type. And it goes beyond just rare situations. There may be differences in how they handle suspended games or postponed matches.

Naturally, not every bettor is going to read and remember all the various house rules at every sportsbook they have access to. Chances are, it’s only when it affects you that you’ll go in and read the rules. I would estimate that four out of five pleas for help that I receive are the result of someone not understanding the house rules at the book they bet at.


There’s Variance in Prop Grading

Also within those house rules is listed what source the sportsbook uses to grade prop bets. I bring that up because a common frustration is often how prop bets are graded. Perhaps a player you bet on doesn’t get rightfully credited with a rebound or maybe a hard hit ball is ruled an error when you think it should be a hit. 

These types of disputes are often very hard to overturn. The sportsbook just goes by what is reported by their source of truth for each league. They also protect themselves by stating that their grading is based on the box score when the game goes final. If the official scorer changes an error to a hit later after the game, that doesn’t have any bearing on the grading of the bet. If a missed rebound gets credited later. Your bet grading doesn’t change. It’s frustrating when you find yourself on the wrong side of that situation but this is pretty standard across all sportsbooks.


The Rules Are in Your Favor – Now What?

Let’s assume you checked the house rules and believe they back you up on your dispute. The next step is to contact customer support. These days it’s much more cost-efficient to offer online customer support rather than a phone number. Typically you will have an email address to contact, or more commonly, a live chat. 

Take a deep breath, play some soothing music in the background, sometimes a customer support chat can test your patience. With the massive size of some of these regulated sportsbooks, customer service representatives are often fielding chats with multiple customers at the same time. Explain your situation clearly and concisely. Having a wager number or Bet ID to reference can help a great deal. The person you’re chatting with will probably need to escalate your issue, so don’t expect immediate resolution. 

Disputes Go Beyond Grading

Also, so far, we’ve been discussing a situation where there’s a grading dispute on a wager. But there are other situations where things can be more complicated. A sportsbook requiring you to submit identity verification, or proof of funds, or perhaps a dispute over bonus terms. Sometimes the issue is just a misunderstanding.

I once had a sportsbook here in New Jersey reject my submitted picture of my New Jersey driver’s license and then suspend my account because my license says that it’s “Not for Real ID purposes.” However, that’s the federal Real ID program. It doesn’t mean it’s some sort of novelty ID. It took several days to clear up what should have been a very obvious situation. 

I have been asked to help out in a lot of situations where a sportsbook is holding a large sum of money, sometimes several hundred thousand dollars, and is asking the customer to prove they are who they say they are. Or prove that they funded the account themselves. In many situations, these are normal compliance checks required by various anti-money laundering or know-your-customer regulations. And in some situations it could certainly be a sportsbook making it difficult on a winning bettor out of spite. 

Either way, my overarching advice is that kindness and professionalism goes a long way on both sides. This issue may mean a great deal to you, after all, it’s your money. But you may be dealing with a company that has processes and procedures that need to be stepped through for disputes.


Take Notes During your Sportsbook Dispute

One important point, document everything. Get transcripts of your chat. Take screenshots of your wagers and requests. This is important for what comes next in the process. For a simple issue like a grading dispute, you can expect to get resolution or an explanation within 24 hours. Some of the more complex disputes may take a week or more.

If the sportsbook still claims that they’re right and you’re wrong, you’ll have to take the case to a higher power. This is where the road diverges depending on where you bet.

If you are betting with an offshore sportsbook or a site which is not regulated by the state you placed the bet in, your next steps aren’t easy. You’ll need to dive into their sportsbook’s terms & conditions (which is different from the House Rules, and a lot more difficult to understand). Many of these sites basically say their decision is final and there’s no recourse.

However, if you’re betting at a regulated sportsbook in one of the 38 states or jurisdictions that have legalized sports betting, congratulations, you can file a dispute with the state. In the U.S., gambling is regulated at the state level. Meaning each state has their own rules and regulatory bodies. It’s pretty universal though that the first piece of information they’ll want is proof that you tried to settle this directly with the sportsbook.

When to go Beyond the Sportsbook

That’s where the transcripts and screenshots come in handy. Different states have different thresholds of how long you need to give the sportsbook to resolve the case themselves. A good rule of thumb is two weeks. If you’re still at an impasse after two weeks or they’ve ghosted you after two weeks, then it is probably time to contact the regulator.

You don’t need a lawyer for this step. This is purely a consumer utilizing the consumer protections that the state provides in this environment. You will need to know where to go to file a complaint. With 38 states and jurisdictions that can be tough to find. If you’ve ever tried to search for anything gambling related online, you know you get inundated with ads and affiliate sites that just key off your search words to serve you more ads. 

Honestly, it’s one of the most frustrating things about this industry right now. That’s why we created an article on Unabated that gives you direct links to all of the various regulatory bodies in all the legalized states. And as more states come online in the future, we’ll refresh the article and update it. 


What Can You Expect from Regulators?

I’ll warn you now, it’s a mixed bag when dealing with state regulatory bodies. You see, some states want to maximize the tax revenue they get from sports betting in their state and they tend to lean towards whatever the sportsbook tells them in a dispute. Other states are interested in growing the industry in their state and protecting the consumers. They tend to take a more balanced approach to the investigation.

Overall, expect the state to do a thorough job in looking into your sportsbook dispute. Again, be clear and concise in explaining your dispute to the investigator. Be aware that the investigators have access to all the relevant information, so don’t try to pull one over on them.

Hopefully, the state is able to resolve things to your satisfaction or at least explain it so that you believe the result is fair. If not, your options are getting thinner. You’ll find most sportsbooks make you agree to arbitration in their terms & conditions if you can’t resolve the dispute. You would probably want to consult a gaming attorney at this point and that goes beyond the scope of this video.

Understanding how the dispute process works is just one step in your journey to being a smarter bettor. 

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