Reproduced from American Gaming Association; Cartogram: Axios Visuals

When the pandemic arrived, the sports betting industry funneled bettors toward the few sports that were actually happening.

What's happening: Now that sports have returned, the industry has benefited from pent-up demand, while also capitalizing on a busier-than-usual summer, with baseball, soccer, hockey, golf and basketball all in full swing.

By the numbers: The Action Network, a sports betting-focused media company, had its biggest week ever for golf and NHL picks last week, and its second-biggest week ever for the NBA.

Yes, but: Sports betting operators and other businesses were still negatively affected, particularly on the user acquisition front. And with college football prospects dwindling, the fall won't deliver the betting volume they hoped.

1. The benefits of being young: "For most major stakeholders in the U.S., sports betting was always a 2023 or 2024 story," says Chris Grove, partner at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming. "So the industry appears to be shrugging off any concern about the long-term impact of COVID-19."

  • "You see a lot of operators and startups being able to take this in stride because the story has always been, 'Here's where we're going to be when this is a national market.' And the U.S. is still years away from that."
  • "That has insulated the industry from the kinds of material impacts you're seeing in more mature aspects of the U.S. gambling market like casinos and horse racing."

2. Online betting push: As a result of the coronavirus, some lawmakers and stakeholders who were on the fence about online sports betting are now more supportive.

  • Rhode Island passed a bill last month allowing residents to register for sports betting online instead of having to travel to one of the state's two casinos to do it in person.
  • Movement towards online betting remains slow in some states for political reasons, with casino lobbyists successfully killing bills.

3. All eyes on the NFL: March Madness is the biggest betting event in sports, so losing that this year was brutal. The next big "event" is the NFL season.

Driving the news: Penn National Gaming — which bought a 36% stake in Barstool Sports for $163 million in January — will launch the Barstool Sportsbook app in Pennsylvania next month, just in time for college football.

  • This represents the next phase in Barstool's evolution from media company to sports betting brand, and there's lots of interest in seeing how it goes.
  • "In these crowded state-by-state marketplaces, you need something to cut through, and it's hard to do that on price, product or brute force marketing," says Grove. "I think the core bet Penn is making is that Barstool's brand will cut through."

Go deeper

Sep 8, 2020 - Sports

Colin Kaepernick added to Madden NFL 21

Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

EA Sports announced Tuesday that it added Colin Kaepernick to Madden NFL 21, marking his first appearance in the popular football video game series since 2016.

Why it matters: Kaepernick has not been signed to an NFL team since 2016, when he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and systemic racism. EA Sports said it wanted "to see him back in our game," calling him "a starting-caliber quarterback."

How "naked ballots" could upend mail-in voting in Pennsylvania

Trump signs in Olyphant, Penn. Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ordered state officials last week to throw out mail-in ballots submitted without a required inner "secrecy" envelope in November's election, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The state of play: The decision went under the radar alongside the simultaneous decision to extend the time that mail-in ballots could be counted, but Philadelphia's top elections official warned state legislators this week that throwing out so-called "naked ballots" could bring "electoral chaos" to the state and cause "tens of thousands of votes" to be thrown out — potentially tipping the presidential election.

Commission releases topics for first presidential debate

Moderator Chris Wallace. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace has selected what topics he'll cover while moderating the first presidential debate between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden next week.

What to watch: Topics for the Sept. 29 debate will include Trump and Biden's records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, economic policy, racism and the integrity of the election, the Commission for Presidential Debates announced on Tuesday. Each topic will receive 15 minutes of conversation and will be presented in no particular order.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!