In a matter of weeks, the commercial casino industry in the United States has grinded to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the American sportsbooks still offering online betting are turning to obscure sports in hopes of mitigating a significant loss in revenue with no definitive end in sight.
The American Gaming Association (AGA) reported Monday that 943 casinos in the U.S. had already shut down, and when the nearly 30 gambling facilities in Deadwood, South Dakota, cease operations at noon Wednesday, 100% of U.S. commercial casinos will have closed.
According to the AGA, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group that represents the U.S. casino industry, the casino closures will impact 649,000 gaming employees. If the closures last for two months, the AGA estimates $43.5 billion in economic activity generated by casinos will be lost. The casino industry, in joint with the hospitality and tourism industries, is looking for help from the federal government.
"The federal government must act swiftly and comprehensively to get America's hospitality employees, and the small businesses that support them, back to work as soon as it is safe to do so," Bill Miller, president and CEO for AGA, said in a release. "Gaming employees, their families, and communities are bearing the brunt of this economic standstill and will continue to suffer if Congress and the administration don't take immediate action."
Two weeks ago, legal sportsbooks in 17 states were prepping for their busiest time of year, March Madness. Now, all major U.S. and international sports have stopped, bookmakers are scrambling to come up with betting options and casinos around the nation are facing a prolonged shutdown for the first time in history.
"Obviously, it's unprecedented times," Joe Asher, CEO of sportsbook operator William Hill U.S, told ESPN. "It's tough right now, timing was bad, wiping out March Madness. Losing the [NCAA men's basketball] tournament was a real punch in the gut. But, look, a punch in the gut hurts, but you recover from it."
On Tuesday, Asher announced the creation of the William Hill USA Foundation that aims to provide assistance for company employees recently furloughed or laid off during the pandemic. Asher is donating his salary to the foundation until sports resume, the company announced.
Despite a lack of live sporting events, some American sportsbooks continue to operate online in states that allow mobile betting, albeit with severely reduced wagering menus. 888 Casino, BetMGM, Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet and William Hill U.S. are among the companies that continue to offer online wagering. Nine states -- Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia -- offer full-scale online betting. The action is minimal, though.
U.S. sportsbook have begun offering odds on table tennis and sumo wrestling, among other sporting events. In Pennsylvania, online sportsbook BetRivers.com reported the TT Cup Men's Singles table tennis tournament was the most-heavily bet event offered Sunday.
In New Jersey, 888 Casino offers online poker and traditional table games in addition to sports betting.
"We're naturally shifting focus to the casino and poker side of the business," Yaniv Sherman, senior vice president at 888, said. "I see offshore [sportsbooks] are suffering the same situation right now. They're trying to offer all sorts of alternatives, like weather betting or political betting. But, at the end of the day, without the core events, specifically March Madness and the NBA, the other things will just be about minimizing the impact."