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Coronavirus Creates A Few Positives For US Sports Betting Industry

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Chris Graythen/Getty Images/AFP

COVID-19 has permeated every aspect of life no matter where you live. Many, if not all sectors of our population have suffered loss whether it be a job, someone we love, or a routine that we find dear to our hearts and souls. But there have been a few winners from societal shutdown, including, surprisingly, in the sports betting industry.

On the whole, the legal sports betting industry has taken a beating over the last month with no reason to think that the carnage will cease anytime soon. It is easy to reflect on the obvious losses that the coronavirus pandemic has caused for legal gambling with the bad certainly outweighing the good but some sports wagering sectors have actually enjoyed an awakening during the pandemic. Let’s take a look at 3 of the biggest winners.

Online Poker

With ZERO sports to bet on other than Belarussian Soccer and Table Tennis, the world has turned to online casinos and poker specifically. Overall, US online social poker room Global Poker has reported a 43% increase of online poker players the last month and an astounding 255% increase in the amount of first-time online poker players.

According to Rafi Ashkenazi, Chief Executive Officer of The Stars Group: “The Stars Group saw increased customer activity across its online poker and casino product offerings largely beginning in March, with year-over-year International revenue growth of approximately 44% for the month”.

PokerStars has seen its revenues spike 27% in the first quarter and other poker sites are seeing similar growth. Celebrity poker tournaments are popping up featuring names such as Tom Brady, Ben Affleck, Adam Sandler, and Matt Damon, benefitting various charities that are struggling during these unprecedented times.

eSports

eSports betting has been able to seize on the lack of actual sports just like online poker. And it is not only sportsbooks that are propping it up. ESPN, ABC, and Fox Sports have jumped in on the action as evidenced by 12-hours dedicated to "the sports" on ESPN Sunday, April 5 and ABC and Fox covering iRacing the last two weekends.

Las Vegas, which has a ton of influence over the rest of the US legal betting industry keeps expanding its eSports betting menu as well. The Nevada Gaming Control Board has announced 5 new eSports events bettors can wager on – Call of Duty League, Overwatch League and the North America League Championship Series (NA LCS), European Championship and European Masters in League of Legends. Nevada has gone from zero eSports betting options to 6 in the last few weeks and those in the eSports realm hope that other states will quickly follow suit.

Overall eSports betting revenues are expected to double worldwide this year – from $7 billion in 2019 to $14 billion in 2020. A study conducted by global consumer research agency 2CV and market researcher ProdegeMR showed that 59% of 1,028 gamblers polled have reduced spending on gambling, with 32% having actively looked for new things to bet on and 24% having shifted their focus to other forms of gambling. eSports looks like one of the biggest beneficiaries of that.