COVID-19 is shutting down everything, except sports betting… Thank God!

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Dave Rozema were among the long line of eager of sports fans waiting to make their bets at one of the kiosks or counters.

Most gamblers have been waiting for this day for years. They might have first fallen in love with the rush of sports gambling when they were just a child, putting a can of coke or the last piece of pizza on the line against one of their buddies… Or maybe they got hooked after a trip to the horse racing track with their father, or soon after they received an invite to a fantasy football league at work.

Legalized sports betting is something gamblers have dreamed of for ages and to finally have it reach fruition, was euphoric. “It’s like a dream come true,” sports bettor, Eric Adams, said in an interview with Jeff Seidel. “I go to Vegas all the time for the (NCAA) tournament. Now, I get to stay here.”

It was Heaven.

Then the NCAA tournament was canceled (and pretty much all other sporting events) and the Moneyline Lounge was forced to close their doors… Just a day after opening.
For as long as it took for sports gambling to become legalized in Michigan, it was the epitome of brutality, how quickly they acted closing their doors within days of their grand opening. It didn’t seem real. Just 24 hours ago, the Sportsbook was packed, highly anticipating the outcomes of the conference tournament games, in college basketball… Now the place is a ghost town.

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But this issue isn’t just statewide; Las Vegas, Nevada, A.K.A. “the city that never sleeps” turned off their lights and went dark. Closing down all of their casinos and sportsbooks just a few days later, following Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak’s order to close all nonessential businesses (including casinos and all other gaming operations) in Nevada.

What was supposed to be a month of sports gambling paradise, quickly turned into something so sinister, it seemed like something out of a Stephen King novel. Not only were all sportsbooks going to close for at least 30 days, but all sports were going to be canceled as well, leaving almost nothing to bet on.

Almost.

Sports bettors have always been models of ingenuity; Always finding ways to evade the law and bet illegally through bookies or “friends of a friend”, and then avoiding said bookies when they owe them money. But they have never had to live a life without sports… They might not be able to count on a freshman hitting clutch free throws at the end of a game or an underdog to finish an upset that they bet on, but they could always count on sports.

Could.

With the sports world battling the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been forced to change how they operate: Football teams have been using their private jets to pick up medical supplies, instead of scouting draft picksbroadcasters have started to announce simple everyday events, and athletes have started playing each other in video games, instead of on the court.

Sports gamblers are no different and when there is a will, there’s a way. Sure, they might not have the major events they once did in the NCAA tournament, the Masters, or the NBA playoffs. But when you put your own hard-earned money on the line, they still feel the same rush.

In the void of sports: Video game simulations, marble races, politics, and the weather have become the bets du jour for gamblers. Bleacher Report has become the leader in video game simulations and with their new “B/R GOAT Sim” tournament, they are looking to become the hub of sports gambling for the next few weeks. “[We’ve] decided to put together a 32-team simulation tournament with the help of EA Sports’ Maddenvideo game,” Adam Wells said of the bracket. Out-of-work bookies and online sportsbooks now flood BR’s comment section and website offering lines on the games, as well as ways to bet on the action.

But BR isn’t alone, Jelle Bakker and Dion Bakker’s Youtube Channel “Jelle’s Marble Runs” has become a haven for sports bettors the past few weeks as well. Each year, the channel uploads a new season of the Marble League, with different events and marbles each spring. This season couldn’t have come at a better time for the marble racers — With a lack of competition from sports, the channel has grown exponentially the past month to over 700,000 subscribers with more than 50 million total views. A significant rise, due to the influx of sports gamblers/fans to the league.

Odds on the next president (President Trump is currently the favorite to win the election at -115 odds, according to oddshark.com) and betting on the weather have also become ways for people to get their sports betting fix, but it’s just not the same.

Bettors miss the feeling of community they had at sportsbooks and the sporting events they hold dear to their hearts. Marble races and video game simulations are nice distractions, but they don’t hold a candle to the real thing. Legally placing sports bets within Michigan (on real games) is something Michiganders (what Michigan residents call themselves… Yes, it’s lame) have waited years for and it looks like they might have to wait just a little bit longer before they can savor it.

Maybe the wait will make sports bettors appreciate the games more when they return or maybe, some will drop the habit of sports gambling all together (yeah, right). Regardless of the potential outcomes, one thing is for sure; Sports gamblers always find a way.*

*P.S. There are odds on when the NBA will return to playing — June 1st +325, July 1st, +115, & August 1st, -170. If I were a betting man, I’d guess that the NBA isn’t going to return this year… But the good news is I am a terrible bettor. For the sports gamblers out there, let’s just hope the NBA returns in June.

-Fats

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