Sports betting made its long-awaited debut in New Jersey in June 2018. It rolled out with a number of regulatory measures in place.
The Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) is the body that oversees the industry in the Garden State. Gaming operators doing business in New Jersey are required to provide written notice to the DGE prior to “the first time that wagering on a category of wagering event or type of wager is offered to the public.”
When first implemented, all parties likely assumed the provision would come into play occasionally. For example, during the advent of a new US-based sports league (AAF, XFL) or for new Olympic sports.
Sportsbooks unveiling nontraditional wagering opportunities
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has produced exceptionally unusual conditions in all facets of life, including sports betting. The industry continues to take a sizable hit due to the significant reduction in wagerable events.
Sportsbook operators are in the same boat as most other businesses during this period; they have no choice to think outside the box for the foreseeable future. That means opening betting markets that otherwise might not have been considered.
In a sign of the times, the DGE has conditionally approved wagers for the first time on the following leagues/events:
- eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series
- Chinese Professional Baseball League
- First-Tier Basketball Leagues (Men/Women) in the following countries: Australia, Argentina, Barbados, Belarus, Brazil, China, France, Great Britain, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Turkey, Russia
- Indian Premier League Cricket
- First-Tier Handball in the following countries: Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine
- Belarusian Extraleague Hockey
- Ukrainian Hockey League
- Bowls Grand Prix Lawn Bowling
- Cage Warriors Mixed Martial Arts
- World Snooker
- First-Tier and Domestic Cup Soccer: Algeria, Bolivia, Cameroon, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Fiji, Ghana, Hong Kong, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa, Uruguay
- International Table Tennis Federation events
- European Table Tennis Union events
- First-Tier Volleyball (Men/Women): Turkey, Russia
Just days after Nevada gaming approved NASCAR iRacing, the New Jersey DGE followed in allowing real-money wagering on the racing esport on April 7.
PointsBet announced late last week that it will soon be offering markets on iRacing. Other books are likely to jump at the opportunity, including and especially FOX Bet. The NASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series airs on Fox, FS1 and the Fox Sports App.
Betting options still very much in flux
The size of the list serves as a reminder that despite the robust moratorium on major sports, there’s still competition globally.
Yet, given the pervasiveness of the COVID-19 pandemic and its unpredictability, any start dates for leagues or events are tenuous.
For example, the Chinese Professional Baseball League recently announced it would hold its previously postponed opening day on April 11, albeit without fans present.
The Indian Premier League is still scheduled to start running cricket matches on April 15 (postponed from March 29). That’s the earliest date foreign players will be able to gain access to the country due to current visa restrictions. April 15 also marks the currently scheduled conclusion of a nationwide lockdown imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Moli. If matches still unfold as scheduled, they will take place without spectators present.
What’s more, some of the above sports have been postponed or canceled after operators gained approval to offer them. Such examples include:
- The World Snooker Championship, scheduled to unfold April 18-May 4, has been postponed, likely until July or August.
- All International Table Tennis Federation events are postponed until June 30 at minimum.
- Cage Warriors’ next MMA card, initially scheduled for April 18, has been rescheduled for Oct. 10.
- Turkey suspended its first-tier basketball, soccer and volleyball leagues on March 19 until further notice.
Despite expanded offerings, revenue shortfall impossible to circumvent
Sportsbook operators will supplement their online casino revenue and futures wagers with whatever events unfold around the world, provided they gain necessary approval.
Handle and revenue will remain a fraction of what it usually would. In fact, analyst firm Regulus Partners recently estimated a revenue drop of up to 14% year-on-year in New Jersey’s regulated sports betting market alone because of current conditions. Notably, that’s assuming the U.S. sports calendar “substantially resumes” in August. This is prior to the most critical point of the sports betting calendar: NFL season.
In the interim, the explosive popularity of Belarusian Extraleague Hockey – one of the aforementioned recently approved markets that are still in full force – should persist as sportsbooks and bettors alike chase whatever sparse options exist.