Without betting on major sports leagues, people will apparently gamble on anything
A popular phrase that has grown out of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 era is social distancing. Perhaps that should also pertain to bettors involving their habits and selections pertaining to online wagering as well.
Yes, we all gotta eat sometime. But like a steady diet of soda, corn dogs, and french fries, munching on a menu of unfamiliar and bizarre wagering choices is likely to lead most bettors into a bad place. It is a sad situation since losing our major wagering board of every U.S. sport for the last few months. In their place comes Russian ping pong, professional dart throwers and every seemingly unusual competitive events people are willing to bet upon.
The Good News
On the positive side has come a rebirth for online poker. It was inevitable that interest in poker was going to reach peak, but quite unpredictable how far it has fallen off both the onsite and online wagering landscape since 2017. Stay at home orders and safety has created a new fever for poker involving both new players and some welcome return for others. The most curious anticipation for the industry will be how it will affect casino poker rooms once (and hopefully if) the Coronavirus crisis subsides soon.
The other good news for all of the top online sportsbooks is heightened popularity in traditional casino wagering including slots, blackjack, etc. Sports bettors have become accustomed to a year-long schedule of seasonal sports including the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, plus feature events, including golf, tennis, and horse racing. The COVID-19 shutdown has reminded bettors that sportsbooks offer a variety of solid online casino choices 24/7.
Full casino action is prominently featured on the home page of wagering titans like Bovada, BetOnline, Bookmaker and 5Dimes. But as most of us are creatures of habit, it has been forgotten to hardcore sports bettors through their favorite link and nature of checking lines on games day to day. The last two months have re-awakened interest in traditional casino wagering and some very non-traditional casino wagering as well.
The Real Bad News
Being a liberal kind of guy, my posture is whatever floats your boat. However, when sailing in completely unchartered waters, your doomed to sink.
A look at today's home page on Bovada features Russian table tennis and minor league golf. Not traditional PGA golf, but some obscure women's tournament that happens to be scheduled while nothing is happening on Memorial Day weekend.
The NASCAR Xfinity 200 futures are also up for auto racing enthusiasts, along with some head-to-head proposition wagering. A potential debate as horse racing is slowly making a full return to action over the next few weeks. The similarity will be no people in the fans to safely cheer. And in the case of the horse tracks, to wager either.
The huge complaint here is we should be dining on a full menu of Major League Baseball, NBA playoff wagering and NHL playoff action as well. Along with that comes major PGA events and a few other traditional May/June sports the Coronavirus has wiped off the board. While severely missing them and worse, fearing we soon won't see them return, desperate bettors have embraced any competition fed to them making up for their absence.
The "Un-Real" Bad News
The biggest online gaming surprise has been the success of simulated NFL and NBA games or what is more popularly known as "SIM games". I like to think as them as "Madden for Money".
As reported recently in an OSGA Betting Scene article, these wagering contests are judged by sportsbooks in different ways and can provide different outcomes, making them quite different than any real game on a football field or basketball court. Some books utilize reputable third-party software providers, while some use their own internal sources. The bottom line is the outcome makes them a trusted betting source, like a slot machine or any other software infused product for a bettor.
Now, I do not want to be a party-pooper again, spoiling the fun. But do any bettors feel they have some strategic advantage over another gaining an edge here? In all, I liked the way Jazz Sports summed in up in their analysis:
"We have given a clientele a new channel to bet on. It's a new option that's not only entertaining, but also fills a void due to the pandemic going on right now. Obviously, this doesn’t beat the real thing, but it’s another option for our community."
Translated that means we will put it out there if you want to eat it. It's not our fault if you gain weight. They (and all other sportsbooks) would hugely prefer to offer you a Lakers-Rockets NBA playoff game, but this is all they can feed you right now.
My other gripe is the mere spirit of what is spoiling what is supposed to be largely a kid’s game. In my youth I did not need to get online to bet on Strat-O-Matic Baseball. Thankfully, nobody has come-up with e-Monopoly as yet for wagering pursuit.
Give me an E
Which brings up to the incredible current growth of eSports. Perhaps no business besides online porn could have benefited worldwide more from the pandemic results of COVID-19 than eSports. Momentum was already building in Europe and other countries, but the Coronavirus has dramatically helped the U.S. market's entry for this new form of wagering game mix.
As the quarantine drags on, the gaming and eSports scene has risen to the challenge of filling the real sports void. And the numbers speak for themselves: according to a study by Streamlabs and Stream Hatchet, in the first quarter of 2020, Twitch reached all-time highs for hours watched, hours streamed and average concurrent viewership. Twitter reported a 71% increase in conversation volume and a 38% increase in unique authors in gaming content in the second half of March. Meanwhile, Verizon has seen a 75% increase in gaming usage since quarantine went into effect. That equates into lots of eSports action for all the top sportsbooks to offer.
While the National Basketball Association remains in total limbo, League of Legends is in daily wagering action for all. And in the most bizarre twist of all, eSports will likely see the most opportunity for a new live onsite stadium audience, once the Coronavirus social distancing problem is solved. Arenas in Europe have already packed in as many as 30,000 people for live League of Legends events.
The latest and likeliest proof to our desperation was provided last week by the Cam Soda Virtual Beer Pong Tournament. Somehow, oddsmakers devised a line for bettors to choose between adult stars like Kantana Kombat, Dani Daniels and Alix Lynx plying their naked beer pong talents. The key here was a win-win proposition. No way the books were gonna lose and no way any guys at least felt they were gonna lose by watching, even if they lost their cash.
Still, that what-have-you-got-to-lose sentiment and words seems to be in the air these days. Maybe it's a presidential trend. Whether it's some self-respect, a few bucks or perhaps worse, I will let you decide.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, including previews and picks from Glenn, click here.