As sports leagues around the world shuttered operations and cancelled events, sports betting took a substantial hit. However, you look at the sports betting landscape, none of the top sportsbooks closed. Sure, they dealt with low revenues, but they managed to stay afloat. In this article, we shall touch on how people were betting in the early days of the pandemic. As well as how sports betting is going on now, and what is in store for the future.
What Happened at First
The first days of leagues closing left many bettors and sportsbooks confused. Would these leagues, already in progress, come back and finish their season? Were futures still valid, or would the books need to start refunding? If the books needed to void bets and return the money, how would they make back the potentially substantial amount they need to refund?
The people working behind the biggest sportsbooks in the world acted quickly, and through the sports below, continued to operate despite the near-global closure of sports.
Esports Gaining Popularity
As esports is one of the only betting markets that did not shut down when the pandemic started, its popularity has surged. Online sportsbooks will quick to react to leagues shutting down and turned their focus to esports betting.
Now, many of the top betting sites have a robust selection of esports odds. From classics like Counterstrike and League of Legends to Overwatch and the newest NBA 2k, finding an esports to bet on is – and maybe enjoy watching as well – is much easier in 2020.
Korean Baseball Anyone
One of the leagues to feel the least impact of the Corona Virus is the Korean Baseball Organization or KBO. The KBO start was delayed by just over a month, with the season starting on May 5. The KBO is considered the second or third best baseball league globally, with some of their best players – such as Hyun-jin Ryu and Ji-man Choi – now playing in the MLB.
Not just online sportsbooks jumped on the potential behind Korean Baseball. Major sports networks in Canada and the United States paid for the television rights to the KBO. Broadcasting the Korean Baseball League, even if many games take place in the middle of the night, helped the league gain popularity.
Small Market Soccer
The best soccer (football if you must) leagues in the world all stopped operations in March. As the top sports betting market on a global scale, the loss of the world’s biggest leagues hurt.
However, not every league stopped playing during the first wave of the pandemic. Both the Belarusian and Nicaraguan soccer leagues continued with their seasons. While few would say these leagues represent the sport’s top-tier, they have some quality teams and players. BATE Borisov has made it to the Group Stage of the UEFA Champions League five times since 2008.
The Return of Major Sports in North America
When major sports returned to North America in July, no one could know how everything would play out. The bubble concept was strange. No fans in the stands too.
Well, a second Stanley Cup for the Tampa Bay Lightning, a fourth NBA Championship for Lebron James, and MLB playoffs after some doubts in the summer. Things have been a success.
Sure, the NFL has postponed and moved around a few games. But its season is moving forward, and the money in that league is just so much the NFL will do anything and everything it can to have each team play 16 games.
The televisions numbers were down for hockey, basketball, and baseball. However, the decline is attributed to casual fans tuning out – as not everyone was a fan of the bubble concept. However, sports betting returned closer to normal.
What Comes Next for Sports and Sports Betting
What is next is a big question for sports fans, bettors, and online sportsbooks. Some of the most prominent sportsbooks, like My Top Sportsbooks, have odds on who will win the next Stanley Cup and NBA Championship.
However, when or how these leagues will work next season is unclear. Will there be fans in the stands? Will there be another bubble? If the Canada-US border remains closed, how will this impact the leagues? No one outside the league offices known for sure but sports fans, sportsbooks, and sports bettors will pay close attention over the coming weeks and months.