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It’s Like Christmas in July for Legal Sports Betting Industry

Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

As the world slowly starts creeping back to normal, so too is professional sports and all that comes along with it. For the legal sports betting industry in the US, it’s Like Christmas in July. All of the waiting, the anticipation, and the pent-up demand for live action will soon be a thing of the past thanks to the impending continuation of the NBA and NHL seasons and the commencement of the MLB and NFL campaigns.

The sports industry in the US is estimated to be $100 billion per year. The COVID-19 pause, in estimates back in May cost the industry $12 billion and counting. Jobs in the legal sports betting industry, at stadiums and at bars that count on game-day revenues to name a few were lost and casinos were suddenly forced to rely on ping-pong and Belarussian soccer to fill the void.

But things are starting to ramp up and the sports betting industry is treating the news of sports’ return like it’s going to be December 25th over and over again.

What Books Missed Out On

A number of major spring sporting events were sadly missed by sportsbooks across the country. The biggest may be March Madness that saw an estimated $8.5 billion wagered on it in 2019. The Kentucky Derby was responsible for $165.5 million in bets in 2019 and the NBA and NHL playoffs brought in big dollars for legal sportsbooks in the US. Never mind the Olympics, European soccer, and all of the other drivers of the sports betting industry that were absent in March, April, May, and most of June.

The bad news is that March Madness revenues have gone into the abyss. The good news is that the Kentucky Derby looks like it will go ahead at the end of the summer and that the NBA and NHL are poised to resume their seasons, including playoffs next month, MLB has finally officially agreed on a framework to throw its first pitch and the NFL is so far moving ahead as planned.

New Jersey as a Case Study

New Jersey is in the midst of taking over from Nevada as the most bet-friendly state in America. Lucky for them, they, unlike Nevada, have a strong mobile betting platform that has been responsible for about 85% of their impressive monthly handles the last year or so.

The state generated an incredible $1 billion+ in sports bets the first two months of 2020 but took a body-blow thanks to COVID-19. The state averaged a handle of $515.4 million in the six months prior to the COVID shutdowns. Year-over-year drops in New Jersey sports betting revenue were jaw-dropping with no sports to bet on and with brick-and-mortar facilities shuttered.

New Jersey’s handle sunk 65% to $181.9 million in March and furthered its slide with just $82.6 million in bets in April, which represents a year-over-year drop of 82%. That’s massive drops for both the sportsbooks in the state and the tax coffers that rely on a healthy sports betting industry.

But, with sports returning, the optimism was demonstrated by the month of May producing $117.8 million in bets, an impressive increase from March and April. May’s numbers were buoyed by UFC, NASCAR, golf and other sports returned to play. In New Jersey at least, “if they play, they bettors will come”.

The Summer

Summer 2020 figures to be a sports season like no other with MLB, the NBA and the NHL in full swing throughout the dog days. At no time in history have three of North America’s sports been front-and-center throughout the summer.

The appetite is definitely there as shown by BetMGM reporting a 3,982 percent increase in betting handle on the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage tournament and the UFC posting solid betting numbers from their recent events.

The summer will give betting sites a much-needed chance to recoup some of their COVID losses and get people back in the betting mood, just in time for the industry’s bread-and-butter, the NFL.