What Bets Are Sports Books Even Taking in the Time of Coronavirus?

Tom Brady's future, politics, weather and celebrity deadpools, for starters

March 20, 2020 10:03 am
A 2018 March Madness party at Race & Sports SuperBook in Las Vegas
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

No sports? It’s not “no problem,” but betting sites that had been relying on the NBA, March Madness and upcoming baseball games and golf tournaments have had to pivot quickly to other arenas of life.

This screeching halt to online wagers comes literally weeks after several states (including Illinois and Michigan) began to allow legal sports betting, following a 2018 Supreme Court case that gave states the go-ahead to legalize online or in-person bets. On March 11 — again, just over a week ago — Darren Rovell of the Action Network was predicting when all 50 states would finally make sports betting legal.

When there are no sports, you get creative. Bovada, for example, recently started offering lines on the weather. A betting opportunity this week at the online sportsbook included wagers like “What Will Be The Maximum Temperature In Jacksonville, FL On March 18?” (the over/under was 83 degrees). However, two days after receiving notice of the weather bets, they seemed to have stopped.

Bovada also offers political wagers. And some of those odds are rather startling: For example, the odds on Hillary Clinton (reminder: not running) being the 2020 Democratic candidate are the same as Bernie Sanders (reminder: won some primaries, still in it as of March 19).

Some odds via Bovada on the upcoming U.S. elections (Screenshot)

As industry site Bookies News points out, political betting (and betting on a lot of non-sports events) isn’t technically legal in parts of the U.S. (different states, different rules), though DraftKings has been experimenting with bets on the Oscars and the Democratic debates.

The rest of the world, though, is pretty lenient when it comes to wagers. European sites will take bets on reality shows and awards shows. And sometimes they’ll bet on outcomes of popular shows like Game of Thrones, although we can see plenty of obstacles there, from leaked review copies to the current shutdown of Hollywood productions.

So for now, some sportsbooks are staying in their lanes. “Any offerings in Nevada are still sports based and horse racing,” Vinny Magliulo of the Vegas-based sports betting network VSiN tells InsideHook. “With Nevada casinos closed, the only way to bet on a limited menu (Australian Rules Football & Rugby, Turkish Super LIG Soccer, MLB Pennants & World Series & Super Bowl Futures, some later in the year boxing) is on the mobile apps within Nevada.”

Related: Marble Racing League Rolls on as Sports Grind to a Halt

What else is left? Besides gambling standbys like online poker and other Vegas-style chance games, there are virtual, simulated horse races. One newer sport that could make a comeback sooner: eSports, if the tournaments continue as non-spectator events. And futures betting is still available for leagues interrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, as well as leagues that haven’t started up again (MLB, NFL, etc.).

As Joe Asher, CEO of the UK-based sportsbook operator William Hill, told Axios: “[Our] company is focusing on sports that are not cancelled yet, or ones that are still being played without live audiences, like certain fights, rugby and Mexican soccer.” He later told the Washington Post that bets were at a 20 percent level compared to the week prior.

According to ABC, one Facebook group devoted to online sports betting has seen an uptick of interest in potential chess or checkers bets.

And there’s still the NFL. With games six months out, the league is still planning on holding the draft in April (most likely virtually) and has already begun free agency; earlier this week, FanDuel was offering odds on where Tom Brady was going next.

In the end, maybe sticking to sports is a smart idea. Otherwise, you end up becoming something like MyBookie (motto: “Bet on Anything. Anywhere. At any time.”), which has already offered an array of bets on all things Trump, U.S. politics and even, grossly, celebrity deadpools.

But when discussing sports online betting in the time of coronavirus, there’s one bet that tops them all: 5Dimes is taking bets on which league will come back from the crisis first.

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