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Coronavirus Knocks out Sports Betting

When you go to the polls in November to vote on legalizing sports betting in Deadwood, remember: imposing another voluntary tax that’s fun to pay may be no skin off your nose, but sports betting and gambling in general are not a reliable source of public revenue, especially if a global pandemic shuts bettable events and betting venues down:

A Las Vegas sportsbook and casinos in multiple states are closing temporarily amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Wynn Las Vegas confirmed to ESPN on Friday that its sportsbook and poker room will close for an undetermined amount of time beginning Sunday. The Wynn is the first Nevada casino to shut down its sportsbook since the coronavirus caused almost all professional and collegiate sports to suspend play.

State officials in Illinois on Friday ordered casinos to suspend gambling operations for 14 days beginning Monday. Illinois launched sports betting for the first time just four days before Friday’s announcement [David Purdum, “Wynn Las Vegas Temporarily Closing Sportsbook Due to the Coronavirus,” ESPN, 2020.03.13].

Might we turn to betting on video games?

We could also see increased interest in eSports, which can be played under quarantine, or even “sports” such as virtual horse racing. These are simulated races with a random number generator that can be bet just like a traditional horse race. Virtual horse racing is currently offered at New Jersey and Pennsylvania online casinos. It’s also available at more than a dozen land-based casinos in Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, Reno and elsewhere.

Markets on eSports are a lot trickier to find. New Jersey sportsbooks have occasionally had odds on select eSports events, but many states don’t allow for eSports betting. DraftKings has a fantasy game for League of Legends, though [Dan Kilbridge, “As Coronavirus Shuts Down Sports, What Can You Bet On?Bookies News, 2020.03.13].

I suppose we could take up betting on politics—20 to 1 says Sanders comes back; 2 to 1 says Trump tries to fire Fed Chairman Powell—but we already have the stock market for that kind of gambling, right?

We could meta-bet on how many tweets Il Duce and his son thumb out this week… but that game sounds rigged: if the Donalds find out about, you can bet they’ll tell Ivanka to plunk some cash on 500 and bang away.

Or we could turn coronavirus itself into a betting opportunity: perhaps we can lay odds on which country will develop the first covid-19 vaccine, or whether Canada will beat the United States to a breakthrough.

But gambling in general is still a risky revenue stream. The state can’t put a lot of chips on one number, or in this case one industry or pastime, especially one with underestimated social costs. Basing state budgets on gambling, like resorting to other “sin” taxes, allows lawmakers put off hard conversations and decisions about raising taxes on everyone in the community… and really, the common good should be funded by common effort.


  1. mike from iowa 2020-03-15

    The Fed just cut interest rate to near zero to fight corona virus. I don’t get it. People need to stay home and not run around spending pesos most of us don’t have. I seriously doubt cutting interest will slow the virus down, but sending people into public will likely have the opposite effect.

    Can viruses take bribes?

  2. jerry 2020-03-15

    Bank of England likely to cut to 0.01%. Both the FED and world banks will need to inject trillions into their economies, the sooner the better. Ohio and Illinois are now under complete lock down.

    Governor GNOem could do the right thing here and expand Medicaid. The lie that has been given is that there is no money for that. That lie has been exposed. Do the right thing governor, help the people.

    South Dakota has done tests on folks that are alive, my question is, what about the dead ones that have died in the last 3 months, what about them?

  3. jerry 2020-03-15

    Starbucks to close many stores in North America and all stores will be to go only.

  4. jerry 2020-03-15

    Always remember the worthless knothead who said this was a hoax. Remember also the two senators that could have made a difference in this country by tossing the idiot out of the White House. EB5 Rounds and Thune are just as guilty as trump for failure in leadership and they all three, along with the rest of the criminals of the trump inner circle, resign.

  5. Debbo 2020-03-15

    Prissy Pussy Pency will not be on Criminal Creep’s ticket after the RNC convention. PPP has appeared to be presidential and has been garnering praise and attention. The kiss of death.

    Any odds you like.

  6. Moses6 2020-03-15

    Their you go slick Mike and empty John could have stopped this guy but no.Wonder why were almost to the bottom in everything glad three of my kids are making better wages out of state instead of staying here.

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