Legal Sports Report

Coronavirus: What You Need To Know About Sports Betting And COVID-19

Coronavirus

The effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the sports world continue to evolve rapidly.

Centers For Disease Control (CDC) guidance likely will extend the length of planned shutdowns nationwide, although local and state governments retain the most authority over when sports start again. States such as Florida and Arizona are ready to welcome professional sports, while California might not have any events for months.

Impacts on sports betting might feel relatively inconsequential during this public health pandemic, yet there will be tangible coronavirus effects on the industry. Here are some areas we are monitoring at Legal Sports Report:

When will sports start again?

The short answer is that nobody knows for certain when most sports will restart. Leagues float various plans through the media on a weekly basis but few if any appear feasible thus far.

Tthe PGA Tour has announced a restart plan. The PGA Tour plans to continue tournaments beginning June 11 in Fort Worth, Tex.

Some majors of the PGA Tour schedule have new dates as well. The Masters will take place November 12-15 in Georgia while the US Open proceeds September 17-20 in New York. The British Open is canceled for 2020.

NASCAR will fire up in mid-May in a big way. The auto racing series will run seven races in 11 days starting May 17 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina.

The UFC began fighting again on May 9 in Florida, then continued with two more events in the following week.

The NBA, NHL, and MLB suggested gathering teams at a neutral site to play in stadiums without fans. While that eliminates some potential health problems, scientists sound skeptical of the viability of such concepts.

The NFL Draft continued as planned April 23-25. The draft took place virtually, with ESPN studios in Connecticut serving as broadcast headquarters. The league continues to advance as though a September start is possible.

How did the coronavirus stop sports?

The NBA, NHL, MLB, ATP, XFL, and MLS suspended games indefinitely following the positive COVID-19 test of Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert. Conferences throughout college basketball canceled their postseason tournaments and the NCAA scrapped March Madness.

Augusta National Golf Club postponed The Masters and NASCAR followed suit by suspending indefinitely. No American sports leagues are operating at this time.

Wimbledon and the British Open announced full cancellations on April 1.

Casino stock prices take a beating from coronavirus

Government travel restrictions and coronavirus-driven fears of public gatherings are pushing down stock prices of casino companies worldwide:

CASINO COMPANIES30-Jan31-Mar% change from Jan 30
Boyd$30.88$14.42-53.30%
Caesars$13.79$6.76-50.98%
Century Casinos$8.37$2.41-71.21%
Churchill Downs$146.64$102.95-29.79%
Eldorado$60.85$14.40-76.34%
Full House$3.16$1.25-60.44%
Golden Entertainment$17.95$6.61-63.18%
Las Vegas Sands$66.20$42.47-35.85%
MGM Resorts$31.30$11.80-62.30%
Monarch Casino$53.44$28.07-47.47%
Penn National*$30.87$12.65-59.02%
Red Rock$24.98$8.55-65.77%
Twin River$27.11$13.01-52.01%
Wynn Resorts$126.62$60.19-52.46%
SPORTSBOOK OPERATORS/SUPPLIERS30-Jan31-Mar% change from 30-Jan
Diamond Eagle (DraftKings acquisition company)$14.67$12.34-15.88%
Flutter (pence)8,7767,288-16.96%
Gaming Innovation (Norwegian krone)6.615.00-24.36%
GAN (pence)157144-8.28%
GVC (pence)887.6561-36.80%
IGT$13.70$5.95-56.57%
Kambi (Swedish krona)130.593.65-28.24%
Kindred (Swedish krona)48.0037.05-22.81%
Newgioco$3.969$1.55-60.95%
PointsBet (A$)$5.84$2.60-55.48%
Scientific Games$25.65$9.70-62.18%
Score Media (C$)$0.74$0.39-47.30%
Stars Group$24.42$20.42-16.38%
William Hill (pence)175.3568.14-61.14%

* Penn National hit a 52-week high of $38.28 following its purchase of a stake in Barstool Sportsbook.

We will continue to track stock prices for casino companies and sportsbook operators.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered a 30-day shutdown of non-essential businesses including casinos, then later extended that order through May 15.

According to the American Gaming Association, all US casinos closed as of late March.

With many private companies banning travel for employees, expect continued cancellations of conventions and other large gatherings. This could continue to drag down casino operators in Las Vegas and throughout the world.

March Madness cancellation a huge blow

The NCAA finally eliminated all winter and spring championships in mid-March. That decision came just 24 hours after NCAA President Mark Emmert announced that March Madness would continue with no fans allowed into arenas:

The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel. Based on their advice and my discussions with the NCAA Board of Governors, I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance.

While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States.

Less than a day later, the following conferences canceled their postseason basketball tournaments:

  • AAC
  • ACC
  • A-10
  • Big East
  • Big Ten
  • Big 12
  • Big West
  • MAAC
  • MEAC
  • Pac-12
  • SEC
  • WAC

The CBI and the NIT canceled their events as well.

The loss of March Madness revenue is a body blow to the entire US sports betting industry. Last year in March, Nevada set its single-month record for handle with more than $600 million wagered.

Will states still meet during COVID-19 pandemic?

As of last week, a handful of state legislatures announced adjustments because of COVID-19. The Illinois legislature canceled its session, as did the Missouri Senate.

Both North Carolina and Texas either delayed meetings or allowed remote work. Georgia also suspended its legislature and Maryland ended its session early.

It’s reasonable to assume others will continue meeting to address public health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic. That said, what priority will be given to ancillary matters like sports betting bills remains to be determined.

Eighteen states regulate legal sports betting as of this week’s launches in Illinois, Michigan, and Montana, as well as Colorado‘s May 1 start. Twenty-one states have active sports betting legislation in 2020.

What happens to futures and other sports bets?

A common question within the industry this week is how sportsbooks will address futures bets and other wagers during coronavirus-related shutdowns.

LSR communicated with multiple sportsbooks that indicated futures bets would be held until there is more clarity on if or when seasons will continue:

Some sportsbooks are taking down futures markets on suspended leagues as well.

As always, review the rules of the sportsbook at which you wager for exact details. For example, some books are refunding bets related to canceled conference tournaments, even on teams eliminated prior to the cancellation.

Adam Candee
- Adam Candee is the managing editor of Legal Sports Report. He covers sports business and news from Las Vegas, where he works as a sports radio host for ESPN and VSiN. Adam is a former editor and reporter at the Las Vegas Sun, Arizona Daily Sun, and KLAS-TV. He can be reached at [email protected]
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