The sports gambling world came back to life last weekend thanks to UFC, NASCAR and golf being on TV again. One of these days or weeks, there will be summer NBA and NHL playoffs and the start of Major League Baseball.
And somewhere down the road, normalcy will return to the world and we will again see packed stadiums -– just not anytime soon.
But this is life in a pandemic, and it is what it is.
And while we all wait for the games to be played again (hey, NASCAR is not a game), the big operators in the US sports betting industry are enjoying the quantifiable boost in business that has been more than two months in the making.
“I think it shows that people are hungry for familiar sports. Having golf and NASCAR on TV at the same time, it felt really normal there for a moment,” said Andrew Mennino, the Senior Sports Content Analyst for PointsBet. “We’ve seen a lot of action on ping-pong and hockey, but people are hungry for the sports they are used to.”
PointsBet saw an 80% increase in revenue last weekend, according to spokesman Patrick Eichner.
At FanDuel Sportsbook, the action on the golf skins game on Sunday, featuring Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson, was double the handle of a normal PGA Tour event. NASCAR was third behind golf and Bundesliga soccer on Sunday in terms of gambling interest, but it was No. 1 in paid fantasy entries at FanDuel on Sunday, company spokesman Kevin Hennessy said.
Industry-wide, bettors and bookmakers had their busiest weekend since the coronavirus pandemic halted the sports world in mid-March, with UFC leading the way.
Without the NBA and NHL playoffs and MLB, betting handle at sportsbooks remains down significantly for the year. Most casinos and racetracks with physical sportsbooks remain closed in the US, but mobile betting is still being offered in states that allow it.
As colleague Matthew Waters reported, DraftKings lost $74 million in the first quarter but still saw its stock rise, and there are 14 state legislatures looking at legalizing sports gambling at the present time.
Clearly, this industry is not going anywhere.
The trick for now for every sports betting entity is riding out the pandemic and then capitalizing over the summer if and when the major sports return. The MLB continues to lay out plans, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been steadfast in stating that the the league will be back at some point over the summer. Even President Trump was inquisitive about basketball as Houston Rockets owner Terman Ferditta spoke with top US government officials to discuss different reopening strategies Monday.
For now, we wait. But there is now more than anecdotal evidence that the gambling world is busy despite the economic slowdown, and hey, folks in commuter states who are no longer spending their money on train tickets now must find a new way to dispose of it. The legal sportsbooks will be happy to accommodate them.
“The momentum should continue,” said Johnny Avello of DraftKings, which saw last weekend’s Skins game pull in the fourth-largest golf wagering pool in the company’s history. The only events that took more action were The Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open.
“We booked all of these obscure sports, and it held us over and will remain on the menu, but now you have baseball almost ready, there is a date for the Belmont Stakes, the NBA and the NHL look as though they’ll get back this summer.”
Up next: The Match
“In the short term, I look for the action on the golf – Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning vs. Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady – to be even bigger than what we saw last weekend,” Avello said about The Match, which is set to take place this weekend.
FanDuel Sportsbook is seeing a lot of interest in the event, with the Mickelson-Brady pairing drawing 63 percent of the bets.
Wagering against Tiger, it seems, is another aspect of what everyone refers to as the “new normal.” In a crazy calendar year, which is what 2020 has been, all of us should have learned by now to expect the unexpected.
And in the sports gambling world, the unexpected has translated into beaucoup bucks being plunked down each weekend by those still fortunate enough to be working.
Gamblers gamble, and only a fraction ever give it up. And with the numbers we are seeing in the past week from the major sportsbooks, this is no time for anyone to look for their demise. Quite the contrary, they are one of the few industries that appear to be thriving. The trick will be maintaining it over the summer, and every expert interviewed for this column was in agreement that the spike upward will continue in June, July and August.