Coronavirus pandemic spreads across sports world
Legal Sports Report

The Week In Sports Betting News: Everything Shuts Down

sports betting news

Welcome to Monday, everyone. We at LSR understand sports betting news might be a little lower on everyone’s radar these days, but we’ll still be here to stay on top of the industry.

For now, follow whatever quarantine guidelines are in place for your local community and stay safe. Let’s recap last week’s top stories.

Biggest sports betting news: coronavirus

The world of sports shifted rapidly on Wednesday after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver suspended the league indefinitely.

A positive coronavirus test for Rudy Gobert led to that decision, which had a snowball effect across other leagues.

The NHL and MLS followed suit, suspending their leagues. MLB ended Spring Training and will delay the opening of the 2020 season into at least May.

The NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament, along with conference tournaments, was canceled as well.

Sports might not come back until some point in May. The CDC announced mass gatherings of 50 or more people should be postponed or canceled for the next eight weeks.

Casinos/sportsbooks shut down

FanDuel Sportsbook at Valley Forge Casino in Pennsylvania was the first sportsbook shutdown related to the coronavirus.

Plenty of others have followed, with the first shutdowns in Las Vegas announced Sunday. Both MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts confirmed their Las Vegas Strip casinos were closing.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement then sent out a notice to sportsbook operators guiding how to grade bets.

At this point, it’s unclear how state legislatures will handle pending sports betting bills, like in Maryland and Georgia.

LSR will continue to track the impact of the coronavirus across the industry.

Three states launch sports betting

Sportsbook operators in Illinois, Michigan and Montana originally thought their launches came at the perfect time before the start of March Madness.

It will take much longer to recoup those startup costs now, especially considering none of the states launched online betting yet. Montana only allows on-site mobile.

Illinois launched first with Rivers Des Plaines opening a BetRivers Sportsbook last Monday. That was followed Wednesday by MGM Grand Detroit and Penn National‘s Greektown in Michigan.

Montana began installing sports betting terminals at more than 100 licensed sales agents Wednesday. The launch was dampened by the terrible prices offered by Intralot, which did not have to bid for the contract to operate Sports Bet Montana.

CA tribes get more than half of needed signatures

Eighteen tribes that are backing a retail-only California sports betting referendum have more than half of the signatures needed, a spokesman told LSR.

The tribes already have more than 600,000 signatures. Getting the petition on the ballot requires 997,139 total.

The tribes plan to submit 1.5 million signatures by late April just to be safe after state officials verify signatures.

NJ sportsbooks continue strong run

From a sports betting news perspective, the coronavirus is also disrupting New Jersey’s march toward maturity.

The state’s sportsbooks took $494.8 million in bets during February, up 54.5% from the prior year.

New Jersey sports betting figures are always slightly skewed because of the handle coming from New York bettors. But it had been interesting to watch the market ramp-up of the first major sports betting market to launch outside of Nevada.

It will likely take months for the NJ sports betting market to normalize from this point.

DraftKings made, lost a lot of money in 2019

Costs rose faster than revenue for DraftKings last year as the company posted a $143 million net loss.

The company attributed the higher loss to platform development, as well as launches in three states. The pace of sports betting legalization throughout the US will determine how quickly DraftKings will become profitable, the company advised.

On the positive side, average monthly paid users rose almost 14% to 684,000 compared to 2018. The average revenue per user also jumped to $39 from $31.

The company remains optimistic about its future despite the coronavirus shutdowns.

Rhode Island still struggling with in-person sign-up

The pace of Rhode Island sports betting account creation is slowing compared with the three prior months.

Just 35.2% of the 23,564 potential sports bettors completed the in-person registration process that they started on their phones as of March 4. That’s down from 37.4% as of Dec. 2.

There reportedly is a program in the works from Twin River, which runs the state’s two casinos, to boost in-person registration. It was originally supposed to launch mid-January but is still in the planning phase as of March 6.

The launch of DraftKings Sportsbook in mobile-only New Hampshire is faring much better than Rhode Island’s operations. DraftKings took its millionth bet Feb. 8, just 41 days after launching in the state.

Rhode Island’s millionth bet came 167 days after launch on Feb. 17.

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- Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.
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