Mar 17, 2020 - Sports

Coronavirus sends sports betting scrambling

An illustration of dice in a sports stadium.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Sportsbooks are flummoxed over what to do about the lack of sports events.

Why it matters: 2020 was supposed to be the year that sports betting really took off, with many more states expected to legalize betting in coming months.

Now that sports are being cancelled across the globe due to the coronavirus, sportsbook operators are looking for contingency plans.

  • "These are unprecedented times to be sure," said Joe Asher, CEO of UK-based sportsbook operator William Hill, in an interview with Axios.
  • "Obviously the timing was pretty bad, coming right before the NCAA tournament, and basketball and hockey being on hiatus," says Asher. "But this too shall pass."
  • "A lot of industries are being hit and this is one of those industries that's being disproportionately impacted."

What's next: Asher says that William Hill, like most companies, is focusing on making sure that its employees that work in casinos are safe.

  • From a business perspective, he says the company is focusing on sports that are not cancelled yet, or ones that are still being played without live audiences, like certain fights, rugby and Mexican soccer.

Yes, but: From a business perspective, Asher says William Hill isn't thinking big about esports from a betting perspective just yet.

  • "We've done a few esports things in the past and I think given this slowdown, it's something we'll look at, but it's modest in the overall scheme of things.

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