William Hill suffers bad break after chess odds approval


William Hill’s oddsmakers thought they’d found a workaround to the problem that’s vexing sportsbooks across the planet. What can punters wager on when professional and collegiate sports have been cancelled on nearly every country on the planet? Then they stumbled across the Candidates Tournament.

The Candidates Tournament is an international chess tournament that’s been taking place in Russia for several weeks already. But even though the event was entering into its eighth round, the oddsmakers at William Hill saw an opportunity and they jumped at it.

In Nevada, where William Hill is the dominant force in sports betting, regulators acted quickly and approved the company’s idea of offering odds on international chess tournaments. At a time when the Las Vegas Strip is shut down completely, sports wagering and other forms of online gambling are literally the only form of revenue gambling operators have and regulators are keen to support them any way they can. So everyone got on board with offering wagers on chess tournaments.

But the corona virus has proven an insidious ability to upset any plan, no matter its significance. Earlier this week, the William Hill US sent out a Tweet reading, “For Chess Candidates Cup Round 8 matches: The tournament has been postponed before the start of Round 8 and it will be continued at a later date. If you wish to void your bets on the Round 8 matches please contact Customer Support in Nevada.”

The folks at William Hill US are to be commended for innovating in a time of crisis, but their plans were upended by a microscopic player who doesn’t seem to play by anybody’s rules.