Coronavirus Pandemic Ushers In ‘Unprecedented’ Time as US Sportsbooks Adjust To No Leagues

Posted on: March 13, 2020, 03:47h. 

Last updated on: March 13, 2020, 10:31h.

This weekend should have been some of the best days on the sports betting calendar.

It may be a while before sportsbooks can post full odds boards, as almost every major sport in the US has shut down in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The NBA expects to be off a minimum of 30 days. (Image: CBS News)

Friday would have seen most of the major college basketball conferences hold their tournament semifinals, with the possibility of Duke-Florida State and Louisville-Virginia matchups in the ACC highlighting the day.

Saturday would have given us conference tourney finals, including the possibility of a third Baylor-Kansas matchup in the Big 12. The Big Ten would have held its semifinals, with the possibility of a suddenly surging Michigan State playing Maryland for the third time in less than a month.

We also would have had the third round of the Players Championship, the unofficial fifth major on the PGA Tour. And there was also the Pelicans-Clippers game, where we would have gotten a chance to possibly watch Zion Williamson wreak havoc against Kawhi Leonard,

And, of course, on Sunday evening, we’d have all gathered around our televisions, laptops, and smartphones to find out who made the NCAA Tournament, who got snubbed, and who got the best – or worst – draw.

None of that will happen, though, as over a 24-hour period starting Wednesday night, most of the active sports leagues started suspending – or in the NCAA’s case, canceling – their seasons in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. While we’ll miss out on plenty of enticing betting options, none of those are remotely worth gambling the public’s health.


Still, in the days ahead, once the shock wears off, the US sports betting industry – still nascent pretty much anywhere outside of Nevada – will face an extended period where it will have limited, if any, opportunities on a daily basis.

“What is happening is unprecedented,” Robert Walker, director of sportsbook operations for USBookmaking and a 30-year Vegas sportsbook veteran, told Thursday.

Make no mistake, Walker and other sportsbook representatives across the industry not only understand the decision, but they also approve of it. Even if it means little business for the next month or longer.

Everyone’s bought into the long game.

We are here to support our partners, Santa Ana, Isleta, and Santa Claran in any way we can,” Walker added, referencing USB’s partner tribal casinos in New Mexico. “We will continue to book events that are available and just hope that this ends as quickly as it started.”

As of early Friday, the only US sports still active are NASCAR, UFC, and horse racing. Horse racing, however, is not available to most sportsbooks across the country. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a memo to basketball fans that pro basketball will be on the shelf for at least 30 days.

Abroad, most European soccer leagues, including UEFA Champions and Europa leagues, have been halted. However, England’s soccer leagues, including the top-tier Premier League, were set to play this weekend and with crowds.

However, there has since been confirmation that Chelsea player Callum Hudson-Odoi and Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta have tested positive for the virus. That’s prompted an emergency meeting Friday morning in England to discuss the next steps, including a possible immediate suspension.

PointsBet to ‘Ride Out’ Volatility

While the coronavirus will assuredly hurt all sportsbooks, the outbreak could not have come at a worse time for some. Just this week, Illinois and Michigan became the newest states to license sportsbooks and celebrate the launch of sportsbooks near Chicago and Detroit.

In Indiana, PointsBet became the state’s newest online sportsbook just in the past week, with the launch timed to take advantage of the state’s love for college basketball.

Patrick Eichner, PointsBet USA’s director of communications, told that the sportsbook is in a very good position to “ride out any volatility.” There’s no talk of cutting staff even as sports betting markets will dry up for the next few weeks.

“The cancellation gives us the chance to assess what we’re doing and explore new concepts while we keep getting better as a company/brand,” Eichner said. “Now is the time where our creativity and hunger to be innovative will really shine, so despite the unprecedented and unfortunate situation, there actually is a bit of an opportunity from all this.  We will look to show the more obscure sports some love and creatively attack what lies ahead.”