Ontario bettor in court plea over NFL dispute with Caesars

An Ontario resident has initiated legal action against Caesars Sportsbook, alleging a breach of contract relating to nine separate NFL wagers amounting to $2,300.

The plaintiff, Matthew Buchalter, placed the wagers for the 2022-23 NFL regular season, centred on the record three teams – the Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals – would have for the campaign.

Buchalter’s wagers were:
Colts best regular season record ($500)
Bills under 10.5 wins ($500)
Bills under 10.5 wins ($1,000)
Bills exactly 15 wins ($50)
Bills exactly 16 wins ($50)
Bengals exactly 13 wins ($50)
Bengals exactly 14 wins ($50)
Bengals exactly 15 wins ($50)
Bengals exactly 16 wins ($50)

The dispute arose following events on Jan. 2, 2023, when a game between the Bills and the Bengals was postponed after nine minutes and two seconds of playing time following a serious on-field medical emergency involving Damar Hamlin.

Three days later, the NFL announced that the game would not be resumed or rescheduled, that the results of the incomplete game would be voided, and that the two sides would each play 16 games during the 2022-23 regular season instead of the originally scheduled 17 games.

Consequently, the Bills ended the regular season with 13 wins and three losses, and the Bengals with 12 wins and four losses.

The class action brought about by Buchalter affirms that, according to Caesars’ own terms and conditions, all nine wagers described should be settled as ‘void’ and that Caesars is liable to Buchalter in the amount of $2,250, calculated as $2,300 total bet minus the $50 refund received for one voided wager (Bengals exactly 13 wins).

For the other wagers, the condition “must play 17 games for action” is, according to the plaintiff, explicitly present on the bet slip.

However, rather than voiding the wagers, Caesars settled eight of the wagers as losses – retaining the money – and marking the other as ‘void’, refunding the $50 bet to Buchalter’s account.

After prior contact between the parties, Caesars explained on Jan. 12 that it had decided to settle all bets where the outcome was “a mathematical certainty” as wins and losses, and void all bets where the outcome was not “a mathematical certainty.”

Alleging that the decision was in contravention of Caesars’ ‘House Rules’, Buchalter initiated a formal dispute with iGaming Ontario (iGO), a subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) presumptively responsible for the conduct and management of schemes prescribed by the iGO regulation, including Caesars’ operations in Ontario.

The complaint was rejected by iGO under the grounds of the ‘General Rules section, Clause 3,’ which states that “bets for all markets stand provided at least 55 minutes of play have taken place and an official result is declared unless a result has already been established. If a game is postponed, the game must be played within seven days of the original scheduled date or bets are void. The exception being the final/championship of a competition, in which case all bets stand for the rescheduled game.”

Buchalter’s team responded with three points, the first emphasizing that the game was postponed before being cancelled and was not played within seven days of the originally scheduled date.

The second said that the 55-minute rule was “obviously intended to apply to single-game bets and not to season-long bets“, meaning “any construction of the House Rules relying on the 55-minute rule is inconsistent with a harmonious reading of all terms of the House Rules and results in a commercially absurd result”.

Lastly, they took umbrage with the “55 minutes of play” rule contained in the general section of the football betting house rules, alleging that it is “in direct contradiction with more specific rules found both in the Regular Season Team Futures and Regular Season Team Win Totals sections, as well as on the bet slips themselves. Thus, iGaming Ontario’s obviously incorrect position is that in the event of a contradiction within the House Rules that a more general provision should override a specific one.”

In addition to requesting back his “improperly settled wagers”, Buchalter is also seeking payment for legal costs and all other related expenses.

The action also calls for Caesars to be penalized with a payable penalty consistent with Rule 19.06 of the Rules of the Small Claims Court, after “acting unreasonable” and “knowingly” contravening its own House Rules.

“As a new entrant in the Ontario gaming market, the court should send a clear signal that Caesars must honour its agreements with Ontario betters,” the plea ended.

Canadian Gaming Business reached out to both Caesars and the AGCO for comment; Caesars did not respond and the AGCO said it “has no information or comment on this matter.”

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