As Sporting Event Cancellations Mount, Sportsbooks Are Looking For Alternatives

Mar 23, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is now threatening the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, following a number of high-profile sporting events that have already been postponed or canceled. These cancelations have some sportsbooks looking for different things to bet on.

Jay Kornegay is the VP in charge of the Westgate Resorts Superbook in Las Vegas, the largest sportsbook in the world. But it’s been closed since last week when Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered all non-essential businesses to shut down for 30 days.

“It really hits you when you see an empty room like that,” Kornegay said of the sportsbook that’s usually open around the clock. “The TVs are not on. We only have the emergency lights on at this time.”

Kornegay said he’s looking ahead to betting options in the fall — and that includes the presidential election. Currently, that’s only allowed at some locations outside the U.S. But Kornegay would welcome a change in law, as he suspects the election could bring in ten times more money than the Super Bowl.

“There’s certainly a lot more people that have opinions on the presidential election than they do the Super Bowl, and even more so now, I can imagine,” he said.

While illegal, wagering on the outcome of a presidential election certainly happens, and it has for a long time, as sports law expert John Holden recently outlined.

“For all the indications that election wagering might encourage voter turnout, it could conceivably have the opposite effect as well,” Holden wrote. “If a candidate had long odds according to bookmakers, it may encourage voters to stay home.” Regardless, he continued, “do not expect it to happen anytime soon in the U.S.”

Considering how much money sportsbooks are losing at the moment, Kornegay clings to the slim odds.

“We don’t think accepting wagers would influence the election in anƒy such way,” he said. “Because that was the concern years and years ago, that if we were to make odds on the election, the odds could influence certain voters.”

Kornegay said some other sportsbooks are still operating via mobile apps, but he expects those to also shut down soon.

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.