The virus known as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on our country and the world.
Confirmed cases continue to pile up, causing global panic and contributing to free-falling stocks.
Sports have long provided an escape from reality. Now, the ever-expanding sinkhole created by coronavirus has swallowed them up, leaving online casinos as some of the only gambling alternatives for now.
On to the Rewind:
NBA sets off a domino effect of cancellations
Even as coronavirus landed stateside, sports persevered. The NBA, NCAA, and NHL powered forward toward the postseason. Then, Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus. So, too, did Utah Jazz teammate Donovan Mitchell.
Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA, quickly made a decision regarding his league’s immediate future: postpone the rest of the season.
The NBA’s counterparts did not wait long to follow a similar path.
Spring training was scrapped by MLB, which also postponed Opening Day. The NHL and MLS both suspended operations. The PGA Tour, one round into the Players Championship, canceled the event as well as the following three tournaments. Even August National put a pin in the Masters, which was originally slated for April.
While it allowed free agency and the new league season to begin as scheduled, the NFL eventually opted to have the league Draft closed off to the public. It remains scheduled for April 23-25, but the historic nature of being held in Las Vegas is likely to be aborted. (The NFL said it is “exploring innovative options” for the Draft.)
Seemingly in the blink of an eye, a slew of events and legalized sports betting options were taken away from us.
And not only that…
March Madness turns to March Sadness
Conference tournaments were well underway when the news of Gobert and Mitchell surfaced. Some teams had already punched their tickets to March Madness.
Then, once again, the inevitable occurred:
Tournament officials allowed games to go on but without fans. They then canceled tourneys altogether. Domino after domino fell, until it appeared as if only one tournament remained. Finally, at halftime of a Big East matchup, the last hat dropped. And later that day, the NCAA announced that March Madness — the non-Super Bowl pinnacle of sports and sports betting — was canceled.
Initially, the association planned on continuing with the NCAA tournament with games played in front of empty stands. Organizers even considered whittling down the tourney to 16 teams as opposed to 68. It was a good effort, but alas, March Madness is no more.
To boot, the NCAA put the kibosh on all spring championships, which, among others, includes the College World Series, which has been played every year since 1946.
As a result, for the first time since Oregon won the inaugural tourney in 1939, the NCAA tournament will not take place.
Illinois, Michigan sports betting launch
The timing was supposed to be ideal for Illinois and Michigan sports betting. Launch ahead of the NCAA tournament, slingshot into the Masters, and dive headlong into the NBA playoffs.
Indeed, both states saw their regulated industries get off the ground, although both then suspended operations due to the outbreak.
In Illinois, BetRivers Sportsbook in Des Plaines accepted its first wagers March 9. Online sports betting in the state remains a ways away, but Greg Carlin, CEO of Rush Street Gaming, noted that customers can register for online accounts with the BetRivers Sportsbook. This would allow for seamless and quick transitions to online wagering for those bettors.
Two days later, Michigan went live with its first brick-and-mortars. Like Illinois, Michigan launched without mobile betting.
Retail sportsbooks at Greektown Casino and MGM Grand Detroit opened their doors to the public March 11, followed a day later by FanDuel Sportsbook at MotorCity Casino. Just like that, the number of US states with live (at the time) and regulated sports betting grew to 16.
Unfortunately, like many US states, both Illinois and Michigan closed all casinos for two weeks beginning March 16.
No doubt that number will increase. But coronavirus might prevent some states (like Colorado) from launching when they initially intended.