With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down nearly all large events in the United States – and authorities increasingly asking people to avoid holding even smaller gatherings – much of our day-to-day entertainment and social activity will likely be moving to the internet for the time being. Along with virtual happy hours, video dating, and lots of time playing video games, online gambling could also see a boost in popularity while everyone is stuck at home for the weeks and months to come.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced a slew of closures in the state Monday, with many entertainment, fitness, and social facilities — including Atlantic City casinos — shutting down by 8 pm. But he made time to note an exception.
“Good news is: online gaming will continue,” Murphy said at his Monday afternoon press conference.
Online Casinos, Poker Sites Thrive During Pandemic
Online gambling sites stand to gain as millions of people sit in their homes and casinos close. Online casinos should benefit from being the only game in town as evidenced in Italy where online poker rooms have attracted more traffic than they’ve seen in about five years.
On the other hand, there’s an obvious reason to believe that online sportsbooks won’t enjoy the same benefits — one that Gov Murphy articulated in his very next sentence.
“Bad news is: not much to wager on,” he added.
Indeed, betting on sporting events is difficult if none of them are happening. The UFC – one of the last sports organizations still planning to push forward despite the spread of COVID-19 – announced Monday night that it would have to cancel its next three shows. It’s hard to imagine Australian sports leagues managing to continue playing games much longer. Even major esports competitions are off, as competitors at that level play in live venues over local area networks (LANs) to minimize lag.
That leaves a limited menu for sportsbooks to offer to their bettors. Soccer games continue in Turkey, Russia, and Argentina, among other locations. For the moment, the AFL (Australian rules football) and Australia’s National Rugby League are still holding matches. And futures betting is available for leagues that were interrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, and those yet to begin their next seasons, like Major League Baseball and the NFL.
States May See the Light on Online Gambling
At the moment, few states offer online gambling: just 10 have at least one form of internet wagering available, though several more have sports betting or other web-based gaming sites coming. One possibility is that the coronavirus shutdown could encourage lawmakers in more states to move to pass online gambling legislation as they see their brick-and-mortar revenues dry up overnight.
It’s certainly possible that the current crisis may serve as inspiration for new laws to be passed, but it’s unlikely that anyone currently enjoying a bout of social distancing in a state without internet gaming laws already on the books will start to enjoy legal, regulated online sports betting or casino games anytime soon.
It has typically taken months – if not a year or more – for states to get online gambling sites up and running, and that timeline will only increase with the coronavirus response justifiably becoming the top priority for governments across the country. That means the shutdown could ultimately be a boon for offshore sites, many of which have been taking action – though unregulated, and with little or no oversight – from Americans for many years.