Pressing pause, but looking ahead

Colts fans, vs. Falcons, Sept. 22, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Colts fans (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
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If these were normal days, we’d be filling out our brackets, analyzing opening round point spreads and digging into NCAA Tournament props.

These, however, are not normal days.

Most of the sports business is doing the prudent thing — taking the advice of health experts and shutting down games while the world does its best to contain the Coronavirus.

This means no March Madness, the biggest sports betting event of the year. It also means no NBA, NHL, MLB, soccer, pro golf, NASCAR, etc., etc., for at least several more weeks (defiantly, the UFC insists its fights will go on).

Of course, the temporary closure of sports is having a major impact on the betting business. From a broader perspective, casino companies are closing their properties, including those in Illinois and Indiana, workers are being laid off, and gaming industry stocks are taking a beating.

While handle and revenue numbers for March will be minuscule, sportsbooks are getting creative, offering DFS games, for example, on Sunday night’s debate between Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. There will always be something to bet on, and gamblers will find it.

The industry is also sifting through how to handle pending wagers. Rules vary per shop, but in New Jersey, regulators have issued guidance to operators. Bets should be graded, the notice says, if they’re mathematically official. The Memphis Grizzlies, for example, have 32 wins already, flying OVER their season win total of 27.5. If you’re holding a Grizzlies OVER ticket, you should be able to cash it.

The NFL, meanwhile, is so far the least affected by the Coronavirus fallout. The league for years has made sure it stays relevant even during its offseason and this year gets more of the sports fan’s attention.

Next month’s draft will proceed, albeit not with the fanfare that was planned in Las Vegas, and free agency kicks off this week. With several quarterbacks, including Tom Brady, on the market, futures odds are bound to shift in the days ahead.

Circa Sports isn’t waiting for the free agent chips to fall – the Vegas book on Sunday hung 2020 NFL season win totals. The Ravens and Chiefs open with a league-high 11.5 wins, while the Bears and Colts are both listed at 8.5. You can see the entire list in this tweet.

In terms of how other futures markets are being handled, it depends on the book – some continue to deal NBA championship odds, while others have taken them off their boards, as nobody is sure when, or even if, the season will resume.

We here at USA Sports Gaming, meanwhile, continue to make strides toward opening our sports betting platform in Indiana while we explore opportunities in other states.

For now, we share in the world’s vigilance to eradicate this virus, and we look forward to a return to normalcy, which includes the resumption of the sports we love to watch and gamble on.