In the span of just two weeks last month, the American sports betting landscape was rendered almost entirely barren based on the threat of coronavirus spread – In the wake of sports events being cancelled everywhere, sportsbooks are trying new betting markets for players to wager on.

The first domino to fall occurred on March 11, when the National Basketball Association (NBA) abruptly suspended all regular season play for the foreseeable future. That historic decision was prompted by Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert testing positive for the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.

Within days, every major professional sports league in North America, along with collegiate athletic organizations, opted for similar suspensions, postponements, and cancellations.

By March 17 – following a rash of confirmed coronavirus cases resorts on the Las Vegas Strip – Governor Steve Sisolak ordered all casinos in the state of Nevada to close their doors.

Six days later, the American Gaming Association (AGA) reported that all 465 commercial casinos in the United States and 97 percent of the 524 tribal casinos had closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

And just like that, America’s booming multibillion sports betting industry had ground to a halt.

In response, sportsbook operators in both the brick and mortar and online / mobile realm have resorted to obscure European leagues, competitive video game tournaments, and even the weather to stay afloat.

Vegas Bookmakers Get Creative to Cope During Coronavirus Closures

In an interview with CNBC held shortly after Sisolak issued his executive order, Dan Colucci – the assistant race and sports manager at the Rampart Casino in Las Vegas – voiced the concerns shared by every Sin City bookmaker:

“How do you prepare for a complete shutdown of major sporting events [and] any gatherings over 50 people?

It’s so hard to fathom. You can’t prepare for something like this, especially in the race and sportsbook industry.”

It’s so hard to fathom. You can’t prepare for something like this, especially in the race and sportsbook industry.”
Dan Colucci

Instead of ramping up for one of the industry’s biggest draws – the now cancelled 2020 NCAA Men’s College Basketball Championship Tournament – Colucci briefly attempted to fill the void with an eclectic menu of new markets. Before the Rampart was shut down, the veteran bookmaker posted odds on KHL Russian hockey, soccer leagues in Turkey and Mexico, and virtual horse racing.

As he told CNBC, Colucci knew the demand still existed, even if a steady supply of sports had suddenly been cut off:

“If you can bet on it and we can book it, somebody is going to bet on it.”

With local sportsbooks still able to offer online / mobile services, regulators in the Silver State stepped up to the plate on

dota new Sportsbooks Betting Markets, dota 2 tourament on stage with audience

An Audience watched players compete in a Dota 2 tournament to win prize money of one million US dollars over three days.

April 3 by adding several new eSports – or competitive video gaming – events to the list of authorized new betting markets. The Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) approved the 2020 eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series and 2020 ESL ONE-DOTA Los tournament for statewide online / mobile wagering.

Speaking to SportsHandle after the NGCB announcement, Brendan Bussmann of Global Market Advisors praised the regulator for its flexibility during the coronavirus crisis:

“In a world without your traditional streams of sports, operators are continually looking for additional content to deliver to avid sports fans, and regulators are responding.

It is encouraging to see numerous regulators, especially Nevada, working with operators to allow new sports and other events added to the offering.”

Online Sportsbooks Follow Suit by Spreading Increasingly Odd Wagers

Bovada, the largest online / mobile sportsbook operator serving American bettors, has also been forced to scramble for new betting markets due to sudden closures and league cancellations.

The current lineup on Bovada’s sportsbook menu is highlighted by FIFA eSoccer, darts, table tennis, and even Madden simulations of the upcoming 2020 National Football League (NFL) schedule.

The site also briefly experimented in weather betting, allowing users to wager on what the high temperature in various global capitals would be on any given day to present some new betting markets for players.

The weather wagers were inspired by, a recently launched betting app founded by Jesse Rowe which saw traffic grow from 10,000 users to 100,000 after the sports schedule was decimated.

In his own comments to CNBC, Rowe explained his motivation for turning the daily weather forecast into a new way for bettors to find action:

“People are definitely looking to replace the hobby of sports gambling and we’re trying to be their solution.

Even when major sports do return, we think we’ll still be standing because let’s face it, people are more likely to guess their local temperature correctly than a Browns football game coming this fall.”

Jonathan Zaun

One of Gamble Online's first dedicated reporters, Jonathan has spent well over a decade reporting on the gaming industry. While breaking legal news is his main area of expertise, Jonathan is an avid blackjack player & strategist who follows professional poker closely.

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