Madness Indeed: Will The Coronavirus Affect Sports Betting As Much As The Sports Themselves?

Sporting events and leagues are all taking drastic measures to contain the spread of the virus, but will it impact sports that much?

With the NCAA’s unprecedented announcement to host the March Madness tournaments for both men and women without fans in the stands, the conversation has turned dramatically on how sports will be impacted by the outbreak of Coronavirus. While this news is devastating for players, families, and fans of college basketball, it is undoubtedly the right decision in the face of the global pandemic.

Stepping away from the impact on the players and the sport, many have questioned how these measures across sports of all kinds will impact sports betting. Let’s try to take a look at it pragmatically here and see if we can come to any conclusions.

College Sports Are Definitely Going to be Impacted

This news from the NCAA is going to be devastating for underdogs who could find themselves on the verge of upsets in these now empty buildings. There is nothing the sport loves more than watching a lower seed put pressure on the higher seed, but it typically comes with a crowd response that adds to the pressure on the favorite. There is more of a chance that the seasoned teams and coaches will now find it easier to beat up on the smaller schools, so keep an eye out for that when looking at the lines.

The Underdog isn’t always going to benefit

One argument that has been made recently is that spreads and odds would move in favor of underdogs in light of there not being any home fans in the stands. This may be the case for major events pitting countries against one another like soccer, but if you are looking at regular season games in baseball, basketball, and hockey, it may not be as extreme. These days, in the era of secondary marker ticket selling, home team fans aren’t holding on to their tickets as much as they did before. Just look crowds when teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Yankees, and Toronto Maple Leafs come to visit, and you will see over half the fans wearing the jerseys of the visiting team. 

While there will be some confusion without home fans cheering on their teams, it is the deafening silence that is going to be difficult for both teams to get used to at first, so you can expect lines to be similar to where they currently sit.

What about canceled events?

Postponing events is one thing, and playing with no fans in the stands still ensures an outcome. However, as this pandemic spreads, there is a significant risk of some events being canceled altogether. This has already happened in the U.S., with the Ivy League Men’s basketball tournament being canceled along with the BNP Paribas tennis tournament in Indian Wells. These events won’t hit the bottom line of sportsbooks too severely, but if a major event like Euro 2020 or the Tokyo Summer Olympics is canceled, it could have a major impact on handle for sportsbooks.

From a gambler’s perspective, any parlay or future bets on these canceled events could wreak havoc on multiple bets like parlays, and sportsbooks have yet to come out with a response to the question of what happens to wagers that can’t just be refunded.

Only the beginning?

With the Masters, multiple NASCAR events, and two months of NHL and NBA playoffs right around the corner, today’s announcement could be just the beginning of what could be a very different sports landscape in the coming months. Yes, public safety is the most important thing to take into consideration here. However, the ripple effect of these decisions will impact hundreds of businesses and millions of people, and that includes those in the emerging U.S. sportsbook industry.