Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP
Well… at least there is NASCAR and the UFC! That was the word up until Friday when NASCAR announced the postponement of the next two races. That leaves UFC Fight Night Brazil as the only recognizable sporting event on an otherwise blank calendar. The thrill of competition and wagering has almost officially been cast into the dark. So, unless you are a New Zealand cricket fan, a darts fan, a soccer fan of leagues in Brazil, Iceland, and Mexico or if you enjoy watching people punching each other in the face, it’s truly slim pickings as we wait out the coronavirus threat.
“It's uncharted territory,” said Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill US. “You don't know how long it's going to last. Obviously, the timing's not great, right before the NCAA tournament.”
As the coronavirus situation grips the globe, sports fans and wagering enthusiasts are forced to find other ways to keep themselves busy. No gatherings, no sports and no timeframe as to when we will see our athletic heroes do what they do best. That is what we are faced with for at least a month and possibly longer.
Stopped the Madness!
This weekend should have marked one of the most anticipated dates on the calendar for college basketball fans. Conference Finals would have been run and the 64 teams vying for NCAA's biggest prize would have been named. Who would the #1 seeds have been, who got snubbed and which teams would have had the easier path toward college basketball supremacy?
An estimated $8.5 billion was wagered on March Madness last year and you would be hard-pressed to find an office in America that wasn't running some sort of March Madness bracket pool. That makes the NCAA tournament not only one of the largest betting events on the US sports calendar but also one of the biggest unofficial gambling events going. It’s 63 highly anticipated, highly viewed games that come off the books.
What's Left to bet on?
No Basketball, no hockey, no baseball or golf. No soccer, no XFL or no tennis. It's tough sledding for all of you hard-core sports betting fans.
But online sportsbooks are usually tied to casinos that offer poker, blackjack and a host of other wagering favorites. If they can broadcast Poker on ESPN, there is absolutely no shame in substituting athletic prowess with "strategery".
There are also wagering opportunities on the state of the US political landscape, there are odds posted for Academy Awards, Emmys, esports, virtual horse racing and a host of "pop culture" events like "The Masked Singer", "Survivor" and even "The Bachelor".
The march toward legalization
It isn’t just the sports themselves that are being impacted by the virus. Several state legislatures in the US that are currently in various stages of debates or legal sports betting rollouts have been forced to meet behind closed doors or suspend sessions altogether. That puts a halt to the drafting of rules in some states and debate about the merits of sports betting on the whole in others.
Illinois is one such state that has temporarily suspended legislative sessions with an eye of March 24 as a date to resume. “Given the recommendations for social distancing as a safeguard to slow the spread of this virus, the Illinois Senate is going to do its part,” said Senate President Don Harmon. Maryland, another state that is close to full-scale legalized sports betting has lawmakers meeting behind closed doors, hoping to keep the ball rolling on their desires for legalizing sports betting in their states.
The question for the states is: “Will legal sports betting platforms be up-and-running and ready to take bets by the start of the NFL season (assuming that football actually starts on time)?” If there is a silver lining, it’s that no state is currently missing out on the benefits of a legal sports betting platform. States can officially take their time to launch with little pressure from sports leagues, betting enthusiasts and legislators hoping for a tax windfall from the platform.
So, take some time for your family and friends during this total sports hiatus – it may be the only time we see one in our lifetimes.