Just as many sportsbooks were settling into a rhythm – and some were just getting started – the coronavirus came in and decided that sports action wasn’t necessary. In almost the blink of an eye, sports fans said goodbye to the NBA and MLB, and are tenuously hoping that NFL betting won’t be impacted as drastically. The sportsbooks are hoping for the same, and they have all been forced to scramble to find alternatives during the pandemic. DraftKings and FanDuel have settled into some alternative routines, and are finding success they may not have ever anticipated.
Ping-Pong To The Rescue
DraftKings has started putting up lines for games such as ping-pong and prize pools with surprising results. This past weekend saw 60% of all the wagers placed targeting table tennis matches in Russia and Ukraine. Part of the reason DraftKings is even able to carry the games is because the two countries have not seen the levels of COVID-19 contamination as has been seen in other parts of the world. This means that there is still considerable amount of ping-pong action going on, giving gamblers something different.
Jason Robins, the CEO of DraftKings, probably didn’t expect the response when the sportsbook began including table tennis, but he’s certainly not disappointed. He likes what he sees and asserts, “Ping-Pong is fun to watch. A silver lining here is that people are getting a chance to try new things that maybe they hadn’t before, and that some of them will like them and continue to play those games once other sports come back.”
Additionally, free-to-enter prize pools have become popular. They center on TV shows, such as Survivor, Westworld and others, and eSports contests like those now being offered by NASCAR. To date, there are 22 different pools available, with Draft Kings reporting hundreds of thousands of entries.
Robins adds, “For us, the focus is on ensuring that we’re engaging our customers. I think people appreciate that we’re coming up with cool new ideas for pools and games, and it’s keeping them occupied during a time when a lot of people are home and restless.”
FanDuel Running On The Same Track
One of DraftKings’ primary competitors, FanDuel wasn’t willing to be left behind. It is offering much of the same types of lines seen with its rival, as well as coming back with some others that have worked in the past. The Reality Survival Season 40 contest is based on the CBS show Survivor, and has a prize pool of $2,040. It is essentially a fantasy-like contest that works a little differently, as, because the shows have already been recorded, FanDuel isn’t allowed to charge for entry, but it is still drawing in customers.
There are also the regular go-to options that have been around since before states began legalizing sports gambling. Fantasy sports leagues are still running (unless you’re unlucky enough to live in New York where it was recently deemed illegal) and are still drawing a crowd.
It’s An Election Year, COVID-19 be damned
Sports may have had to go on a mandatory break, but the coronavirus won’t be able to influence political campaigns. This is an election year, and sportsbooks have been more than happy to put up lines for different political contests and even some intensely-debated bills. Even before the virus rolled into town, there had been wagers on who would be the Democratic presidential nominee and whether President Trump would be impeached, and odds on similar issues are still finding a lot of participation.
“This too shall pass” is more relevant than ever as countries battle COVID-19 and try to return to normal. As sports leagues figure out how to pick up the pieces and put everything back in order, fans can only be patient and hope that things return to normal quickly. If there’s any potential good news that can be shed on the sports world right now, it’s that the latest from the NFL is positive. According to league sources, NFL leaders, team owners and others are confident that the first games will be played on schedule. Hopefully, that’s going to be the case, but there are lines on this, as well.