The Betting Scene: Online Sportsbooks Coping with COVID-19

With staff working from home and no sports to bet on, sportsbooks worldwide are working through the challenges brought on by the coronavirus.

Players need to remember that everyone is working at home . . . globally

We have heard from many players who have had some issues with either customer service or payouts recently from online sportsbooks. But, the betting industry is no different than any other during these difficult and troubling times. With one exception, at every sportsbook on the Internet, the lack of sports leaves many businesses with little to do.

So, it comes as no surprise when Twitter and posting forums have posters alarmed that a particular sportsbook is laying off staff. Or that a player was on hold for over an hour trying to solve simple customer service issue. These are problems that nearly every business is having right now.

Yes, sportsbooks located around the world (including probably yours) has laid off staff. Many players see this as a sign of weakness, that their sportsbook is going to go out-of-business. But, most of the staff being temporarily sent to the unemployment line are wagering clerks or lines people. There is literally nothing for them to do, so there is no need to keep them employed at the current time.

Locked Down

And, just like in the United States, the countries where these gambling houses are located are closed up too.

Costa Rica is one country that very aggressively locked down everything. One operator told OSGA several weeks ago that the government was "not messing around". They created curfews, threatened nationals who had expected to leave the country, closed their borders, deployed strict traffic restrictions and clamped down on gatherings, all very early. It does appear to have worked, as currently the entire country has less than 700 COVID-19 cases and has suffered fewer than 10 deaths, less than all but three U.S. states.

Sportsbooks working at homeSportsbooks, casinos and online poker rooms have adapted like other businesses too, with co-workers in their jammies, working from home. And just like almost every company that I have called in the U.S. over the past month, sometimes there are difficulties in communication. Several companies do have facilities that are large enough to support an in-house 'skeleton' staff, observing 'social distancing' best practices, with overflow going to employees’ homes. One sportsbook told us that their warehouse was large enough that the employees that are coming to work are sitting 10 feet apart! But, most everyone, everywhere is working from the safe confines of their homes.

The bottom line is that every business around the globe is doing the best they can right now. And the gambling industry is no different. Some businesses, like sports betting operations with little to no revenue, are hanging in there, utilizing contingency plans and preparing for a season that doesn’t start until mid-year.

Getting in Touch

Right now, we suggest using email to contact an online sportsbook if a problem does arise. Reports of long wait times and often confusion between clerks taking phone calls, is a product of the stay-at-home work environment that most of us are dealing with. Chat has also been effective for simple questions and communications. But tougher problems, usually handled by a chat operator or supervisor, are taking longer at some operations.

With the efforts that Costa Rica has done, there is talk that the country may start to loosen restrictions on businesses soon. We are confident that recent issues at sportsbooks and casinos will resolve quickly when co-workers can get back into the fast-paced office environment of a betting company.

Check back every week for The Betting Scene as we will highlight new items of interest in the world of online sports betting.

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