Momentum is starting to build for a US sports betting industry that has been decimated by the impact of COVID-19. UFC events on Saturday and Wednesday demonstrated the level of pent-up sports betting demand that truly exists. NASCAR, after a 70-day layoff is next up to return to real-time, bankable, marketable action and revenue-strapped sportsbooks are ready to seize.
NASCAR has been one of the most forward-thinking sports organizations on the planet in terms of keeping their profile high and maintaining the betting dollars rolling into sportsbooks during this time of complete global sports shutdowns. While eNASCAR provided a nice weekend distraction and kept us in touch with our favorite drivers the last few weekends, there is nothing like the real thing to get fans engaged and bettors betting.
The COVID Effect
Nobody needs to be reminded about the insane impact that the coronavirus has had on the planet. But the return of sports, which most are realizing they have taken for granted, shows us just how much most of us long for weekends and evenings in front of the TV cheering for our favorite teams.
While all of the figures have yet to be added up with regards to the money lost to the sports betting industry during the pandemic, we can take an educated guess based on the amount of money that has been wagered in the US since the Supreme Court overturned the ban on sports betting in 2018. Over $20 billion flowed in to US sportsbooks from June-2018 to mid-March of this year. From that we can extrapolate that up to $2 billion in handle was snatched away from sportsbooks the last couple of months.
Nevada saw at 76% decrease in their sports betting handle in March, New Jersey reported losing $450 million in bets in April, Pennsylvania recorded a 60% drop in wagers in March and Indiana experienced a 65% drop in its overall handle during April.
What NASCAR Brings To The Sports Betting World
You will be able to get your NASCAR fix early and often. Starting Sunday, there will be four races over an 11-day span in order to squeeze in a 36-race season before playoff time. Sunday May 20 and Wednesday, May 20 will see races at Darlington with Charlotte hosting races Sunday, May 24 and Wednesday, May 27. Things return to a more normal schedule after that with races happening every weekend.
There will be no fans at those races but that isn't expected to affect the amount of dollars bet on the races. While the lack of practice will surely change the way odds are calculated for each race, betting is expected to be vigorous as people cheer on their favorite drivers and teams from the comfort of their own homes.
A Lot Is On The Line This Weekend
Sportsbooks are gearing up for this weekend for sure. William Hill in Nevada even created a drive-thru service to get new bettors to sign up and seasoned bettors to deposit more into their accounts.
Revenue-thirsty sportsbooks have a lot riding on every real-time sporting event right now – it still remains uncertain whether or not any other sport will return in a meaningful way anytime soon.
Not unlike the NFL Draft and the last two UFC events, sportsbooks have increased the amount of betting opportunities that they will present to their customers. More bets equal more money coming in and potentially more revenue for books and states.
A lot is on the line for an organization whose popularity struggled a tad prior to the COVID outbreak. But taking the sport virtual and returning far ahead of any other sport other than the UFC could provide NASCAR a spark. Momentum from eRacing weekends is expected to carry on in a big way starting Sunday.
“People tuned into this, people who hadn’t watched a real race this year,” said Steve Myers, the executive producer of iRacing’s pro invitational series. “If NASCAR retained even 10 per cent of those people, it’s a win.”
With a ton of moving pieces, NASCAR was willing to take a gamble on letting you gamble. Their bet may just pay off. Armed with a potential new, younger audience that had sadly been lacking and the fact that every other sport-type event since the global shutdown exceeded betting and viewership expectations, NASCAR has a chance to make some inroads in the next couple of weeks.
It could be an 11-days that instills some confidence in the legal sports betting industry in the US and NASCAR as a whole. The Brickyard is back and it couldn’t have come too soon.