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Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Despite the lack of live games, sports betting stocks have performed particularly well over the past month, highlighted by fantasy sports/betting platform, DraftKings, and gaming operator, Penn National.

By the numbers: Since going public on April 24, DraftKings' stock is up 82%, while Penn National Gaming — which acquired Barstool Sports in January — is up 130%.

Why it matters: This surge signals a wider truth about the sports betting industry — it is uniquely suited to emerge from the pandemic virtually unaltered.

  • COVID-19 has plunged the global economy into a crisis, and some industries might never be the same (i.e. live events); but others, like sports betting, are poised to bounce back and essentially play the same role they did pre-virus.
  • To put it another way, we don't know when sports will return — or what they'll look like when they do — but we do know that people will bet on them.

Between the lines: As the world remains largely shut down and people are stuck at home with little to do, they're more likely to turn to the vices that satisfy their basest instincts.

  • "Gambling affects a primitive bit of the brain, a bit of the brain that, from an evolutionary perspective is less advanced and it's more about immediate gains," said addiction specialist Cyrus Abbasian.
  • The sports schedule may be limited at the moment, but bettors tend not to discriminate, and there could be more betting interest than ever when sports resume in full.

What to watch: The coronavirus hindered what was supposed to be a monumental year for sports betting, but if the NFL and college football seasons are able to take place this fall, it'll go a long way towards softening the blow dealt by losing March Madness.

  • Penn National expects to launch its rebranded sportsbook as the "Barstool Sportsbook" before the start of the NFL season, while DraftKings is the NFL's official daily fantasy partner and has millions of football fans on its platform.

The bottom line: Whether DraftKings and Penn National are uniquely positioned to succeed, or are just the most-popular proxies for an exciting new industry, sports betting appears to be, well, a good bet — even during a pandemic.

Go deeper: Coronavirus sends sports betting scrambling

Go deeper

The robotaxi era will require a rethinking of vehicle safety

Zoox's robotaxi is bidirectional and includes more than 100 safety innovations. Photo: Zoox

Vehicles are being reimagined as autonomous, electric, toaster-shaped robotaxis. Now their safety has to be reworked too.

The big picture: There's more to self-driving cars than just removing the steering wheel and pedals. The entire vehicle needs to be redesigned for riders, not drivers, so their safety can be assured even when they're not in control.

Apple puts antitrust bills in privacy spotlight

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Apple warned Wednesday that new antitrust legislation would place iPhone customers' privacy and security at risk by limiting the company's control over what apps users can install.

Driving the news: Apple CEO Tim Cook called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats to argue that the antitrust bills would hurt innovation and consumers, per a New York Times report.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

The small business boom

Expand chart
Data: Census Bureau via John C. Haltiwanger of the University of Maryland; Chart: Axios Visuals

One of the most unexpected pandemic winners might just turn out to be new small businesses.

Why it matters: The number of entrepreneurs starting a business easily hit a record high in 2020, according to a new analysis by University of Maryland economist John Haltiwanger. That's a surprising result, given the severity of the crisis.