The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives – the way we work, the way we gather, the way we shop – the list goes on.
We’re a site dedicated to improving your sports betting knowledge – so, of course, our main COVID-19-related concern is how it has affected sports and sports gambling. There have been negative impacts – some of those are pretty obvious, and we’ll discuss them in greater detail.
But there have been positive impacts, too. And sports betting is still going strong. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the positive and negative impacts of the pandemic:
How the industry has been affected
Profits are up for the sports betting industry
DraftKings, one of the biggest modern sports betting companies, saw a 146% increase in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2020 over the same quarter in 2019. That’s despite the fact that most leagues had a shorter season.
What can we attribute to this increase? Let’s speculate. For one, people have had more free time – when working from home, there’s no need to commute, and you can spend that extra time betting on sports.
Second, people were bored. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, many of us turned to the internet for entertainment – and that means more people were betting on sports.
Third, people were receiving checks from various government institutions. For many, this money was an essential stopgap for their COVID-related financial woes. For others, these checks may have been an influx of free cash to spend on entertainment. Without having to commute, costs for some went down significantly.
We can’t say for sure how much any of these factors contributed to increased sports betting – there’s not enough data, and it’s too early to tell. But if we were to put our money on why profits went up, the above three factors would be our biggest bets.
Sports betting sites have diversified
With a shortage of major sporting events, the sports betting industry had to diversify. You’ll see a lot of talk about how these sites added casino and live casino games, among other things.
What’s more exciting to us, however, is how these sites have added more sporting events. DraftKings, for example, added table tennis to their roster. You saw sites adding darts. American sites started adding more football (as in soccer) events. If these sports continue to be profitable for bookmakers, you can expect them to remain – and for those same bookmakers to continue finding other events to add to their books, even as major league sports return.
In-game betting has also increased – people betting on everything from whether or not a golfer is going to hit the freeway to who is going to score the next point in a game of tennis.
We love sports betting, and we love statistics. The more events people can bet on, and the more different ways there are to bet, the more likely we are to find an interesting edge to take advantage of. That’s the dream – bookmakers are happy, and bettors are happy.
More online activity
Almost everything went digital during the pandemic. People started ordering their groceries online, doing work online, and – you guessed it – gambling online.
Now, this shift was already occurring – brick-and-mortar sportsbooks have a lot of disadvantages compared to their digital cousins. You can’t easily shop lines offline. You can’t bet on as many different games offline – and that disparity only grew during the pandemic. Digital sportsbooks typically take less vig, and they’re more convenient.
When the pandemic hit, though, online sportsbooks went from “more convenient” to “literally the only option” in many jurisdictions. That meant that people who had never had the pleasure of betting digitally were forced to – and we wouldn’t be surprised if that led to a lot of bettors moving permanently to the digital lifestyle.
This isn’t to say offline books don’t have their advantages. You may be able to place much higher wagers offline, and the payout is often instantaneous. But expect to see more online betting. That’s great news – when there’s demand, there’s more supply, and that means more lines to shop, more edges to find, and more games to bet on.
The negative impacts of COVID-19
We’ve talked about a lot of what we see as positives for the sports betting world – positives spurred on by the pandemic.
Of course, not everything is fun and games.
A surge in online gambling has also meant a surge in gambling addiction. People with nothing else to do – people who may have been struggling with stress as a result of the pandemic – turned to sports betting.
There’s evidence that sports bettors have a much higher rate of gambling addiction than folks who spend their money gambling on other things. And as an industry, we must strive to eliminate gambling addiction in every way we can. That means sites should add more controls to help people limit the time and money they spend gambling, and encourage people to use those controls.
It’s also more difficult to regulate online gambling. As sports bettors, it’s to our advantage to find the most profitable lines. But it’s also to our advantage to lobby sites to comply with regulators. The cleaner sports betting is, the better it is for everyone.
The future of sports betting
The impact of COVID-19 on the sports betting industry has been surprisingly positive. If we can keep people informed, and limit the risks of gambling addiction, this hobby could continue to grow in unprecedented ways.
There’s a lot of good news on the horizon, too. Canada, for example, has recently legalized single-sports betting for the first time in its history. We can expect an influx of bettors coming to Canadian gambling sites, looking to bet on single events. Again, that’s going to mean more resources, more competition, and more good things for the industry.
We can expect to see regulators attempting to squash gray market online gambling – that will mean more legitimate sites will come into the fold. Perhaps more sites will start to accept cryptocurrencies as payments.
The future remains a mystery, but if trends continue as they are, the future looks bright for sports betting. The pandemic has led to a larger market and more competition. Kyler Covers will be here through whatever changes may come, helping you find the best picks for every game we can.