Now that online sports betting is legal in Massachusetts, it’s time to review the wagering rules for the most-bet-upon sports league in the United States: the NFL.
Beyond getting up to speed with how NFL odds and various bets work, you’ll also need to know the rules of betting. Here’s a quick walkthrough of all the basics you should know when betting on NFL games at online sportsbooks.
Basic NFL betting rules
The NFL schedule comes out well in advance, and teams generally stick to it. However, if something does impact a game, here is how sportsbooks in Massachusetts handle their business.
Change of date
While NFL games are unlikely to change dates, extreme weather or unforeseen circumstances can cause a postponement or cancellation. Over the past two seasons, we’ve seen that with COVID-related postponements. Generally, however, bets will remain live if the game takes place within a couple of days from when it was supposed to.
For games that move to later in the season, sportsbooks will void and refund wagers. They will then post a new game listing with fresh sports betting odds. While that is the general standard, some online books have different NFL house rules. For example, BetMGM Sportsbook MA voids NFL bets for postponements longer than 48 hours.
Change of location
Once in a while, the NFL will have to move a game to another venue. Weather is the typical culprit, such as a hurricane. For the most part, sportsbooks will temporarily remove the game from the board while it adjusts the odds. From there, the exact handling of bets may vary by book.
DraftKings Sportsbook MA keeps a bet open if the home teams stay the same at a new location, while Caesars MA Sportsbook refunds all bets once the location changes, for example.
Barring overtime, NFL games take 60 minutes of regulation time to complete. Shortened games are rare, but sportsbooks will still account for that in their rules.
If a 60-minute game runs for at least 55 minutes, it generally counts for betting purposes. If there are more than five minutes on the clock and play is suspended, the game must resume within 48 hours for bets to count.
Sportsbooks will generally void and refund bets if the game goes less than 55 minutes and there are no plans to resume it. If a game doesn’t take place at all, you’ll receive a refund for any bets.
In the event of a shorter-than-planned season, the largest impact would be on NFL futures bets. Any games on the original schedule that didn’t take place would result in refunds. For futures bets on NFL team win totals, however, sportsbooks will void and refund those wagers as they depended on a full schedule.
Super Bowl, conference and division winner bets may remain active as long as plans call for the condensed season to play out. There hasn’t been a major player’s strike or anything along those lines in some time in the NFL. Barring something completely unexpected, dealing with a shortened season shouldn’t be an issue.
NFL betting rules by wager
There are several ways to bet on NFL games (and bet on USFL games for that matter), each of which may have some additional rules. The FAQ section will cover the basics of how the bets work, but you should also check out the house rules for a full understanding of what to expect. Here are the main NFL betting rules and regulations for various bets:
For each NFL game, sportsbooks install a point spread. It’s a popular way to bet on games, as even paper mismatches can become appealing due to the betting angles. As a quick example, a favorite with a line of -3.5 points must win the game by four points or more. Meanwhile, the underdog can win the game by any score or lose by three points or less.
If a spread is an exact number, like two or seven points, a game that ends with the favorite winning by exactly that number will be a push for spread bets. The official score of the game serves as the last word for bet settlement.
The moneyline bet is simple, as all you are doing is betting on which team will win. Ties are rare for NFL games, but a few could pop up during the course of a season. If this happens, a moneyline bet would be a push, as in no winner or loser. You would get a refund.
In the postseason, games continue until there’s a winner, so this won’t be an issue. Also, note that NFL betting lines generally include any overtime periods. Some sportsbooks may offer regulation-only bets, but it’s not a popular way to bet on NFL games.
Also known as totals betting, these are bets on the total combined score of a game. The sportsbook will set a line, and you can wager on the actual combined score being over or under that line. Similar to spreads, this line will often end in .5 to prevent the possibility of a tie. If that’s not the case, though, and the total score ends exactly on the line, bets would push.
Betting on live games continues to grow in popularity. It’s a fast-paced style of wagering in which the odds and bets will update frequently as the game plays out. All of the normal betting rules apply, such as official game data and statistics determining bets and ties resulting in pushes.
Parlays and same game parlays
For multi-leg wagers, all of the standard rules apply to each of the individual bets that you include in the parlay. If one of the legs is from a game that doesn’t take place or is a tie, the book will remove that leg from your parlay and adjust the odds based on what remains. As an example, if you bet on a three-leg NFL moneyline parlay and one of the games doesn’t take place until later in the season, the bet will remain live as a two-leg parlay.
Things can get a little tricky in this area, so we encourage you to review the house rules at your sportsbook. For most sportsbooks, an NFL player prop will only have action if a player takes the field for at least one snap. Otherwise, the sportsbook will void and refund the bet. As is the case with all other bets, sportsbooks use official league data to settle these wagers.
Procedure for grading bets
If you win a bet, you can expect to see funds in your account within minutes of the end of the game. All wagers will move into the betting history section of your account upon settlement. In the event of a tie or push, you’ll receive a refund of your bet once the game ends. If you have a legitimate dispute about bet settlement, you can contact customer support.
What happens when sportsbooks make mistakes?
Mistakes happen, even for sportsbooks from time to time. If that happens, books will likely remove the wager from the board and refund any bets that people have already placed.
While it doesn’t happen often, a bet that you’ve won could inadvertently end up as a loss. If this happens to you, reach out to customer support for help. For legitimate mistakes on the end of the sportsbook, such as a human or software error, you can expect a quick resolution.
What happens when stats change after the game?
It’s possible to have a stat change after a game is over, such as changing the credit for a tackle or sack. If it happens right away, it’ll impact your bet, but adjustments that happen several days later shouldn’t be an issue for previously settled bets.
What are correlated plays, and why can’t you make them?
A correlated play refers to results that are closely linked. Sportsbooks tend to frown on these types of bets and disallow them, such as betting on a team to win the first quarter and first half of a game.
The lines have become blurry in recent times thanks to the rise in same-game parlays, but books still keep an eye on this. When you go to place a parlay wager that the book doesn’t permit, you’ll see a notification on the bet slip to that effect.
What are the minimum and maximum bets for NFL games?
Most online sportsbooks post a cap on the maximum potential winnings for any one bet. For many books, the bar is $1 million. If the potential payout exceeds that amount, you likely won’t be able to place the bet.
For minimums, you can place bets for as little as $0.10 at some online sportsbooks. The betting slips at legal online sportsbooks will notify you if you’ve gone above or below any limits.
Rules for bonus bets and other bonuses
Many online sportsbooks offer special promos such as site credit or bonus bets to new users. Each offer has its own terms and conditions that you can review before signing up. For example, some bonuses may require you to deposit a specific amount, or a bonus could have a playthrough requirement to clear it. No matter how good of a deal it may appear to be, always take the time to review what you will need to do before accepting.