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Loss Of March Madness, Professional Sports Big Deal For Sportsbooks

An image of a basketball game with a large crowd.
University of Nevada, Reno
Collegiate basketball games, like this one at Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev., have been canceled due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 is halting sports events around the country. The National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer are all suspended. And March Madness is canceled.

That’s affecting one industry particularly hard: sports betting.

When you think about betting, one state in our region comes to mind: Nevada. Last March alone, people spent nearly $500 million in the state gambling on basketball. That led to a windfall of $36.5 million for Nevada sportsbooks, according to a representative with the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

This means casinos are facing a unique challenge right now. Mike PeQueen is with HighTower Las Vegas, a wealth management firm.

“Well it looks like the whole concept of social distancing is a double-whammy for the sportsbooks,” PeQueen said. “It’s not only keeping the people from attending the sportsbook, but it’s keeping the actual game itself from going on.”

PeQueen said Nevada sportsbooks could be down by 80% or more in the coming months. But we won’t know for sure until first quarter earnings are released in April.

On Sunday, MGM Resorts announced that it’s temporarily suspending operations at its Las Vegas casinos and other properties.

Nevada isn’t the only state in the Mountain West with legalized sports betting. Colorado and Montana have also recently approved the industry in their states.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Noah Glick is a former content director and host at KUNR Public Radio.
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