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Industry Updates

Tracking the Return of Sports Betting and Leagues After Coronavirus

The return of legal sports betting to its full capacity is contingent upon each state giving its casinos the go-ahead to reopen and for sports leagues to resume play so bettors have events to bet on.

The current situation is that most states with legal sports betting are locked down with full-on stay-at-home orders and/or all retail sportsbooks are closed until further notice. Mobile betting is still available in states with legal online wagering, although the pickings are slim with every mainstream sports league in the world on hiatus.

Federal and state officials are increasingly speaking on how they will reopen the economy, but that is likely to happen in phases and it is unclear where casinos stand in terms of priority. President Trump has specifically spoken of getting sports leagues running again, and some leagues have already begun forming rough plans for restarting.

Below is an overview of the state of sports betting in each state along with any notes for a planned resumption of normal activity. For the most part, states are in a holding pattern as medical officials gather data and work with the federal government to plan their next steps. Further down is an overview of where each major US sports league stands in its restart plans.

Note: Steve Ruddock recently posted an interesting piece on how the US gaming industry may approach reopening in the wake of extended coronavirus lockdowns. In his piece, Steve discusses the considerations US casinos (and their sportsbooks) will be making and the tactics they may consider to limit exposure during the early stages of reopening.

BettingUSA will update this post continually with more information as states begin to reopen and give sportsbooks the go-ahead to resume normal operations.

Arkansas Sportsbooks: Reopening May 18th in Limited Capacity

The Arkansas Department of Health ordered all casinos to be closed for two weeks beginning March 17th and later extended the closures to April 30th.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced on May 7th that the state’s casinos may begin reopening on May 18th at one-third capacity.

Colorado Sportsbooks: Reopening Possible Around or After Late May

  • Mobile betting available? Yes
  • Retail sportsbooks closed? State’s first retail sportsbooks were set to launch around May 1st, but the timeline is up in the air now
  • Firm reopen date announced? No
  • Colorado Sports Betting Details

Colorado was in the process of implementing sports betting at casinos and through mobile apps when coronavirus hit US shores, but the Limited Gaming Control Commission (LGCC) has continued its work in approving licenses and proceeded with its planned May 1st launch date.

Four mobile sportsbooks launched on May 1st in Colorado as expected and now offer a limited but growing menu of wagers as the world’s sports leagues slowly start their return to normal.

Retail sportsbooks will not be able to launch at casinos until sometime after executive orders closing all casinos and ordering residents to stay home are lifted on or after late May.

Delaware Sportsbooks: Closed for Now

Delaware’s casinos closed indefinitely on March 16th following the declaration of a state of emergency by Governor John Carney.

An executive order signed by Governor Carney in March states public gatherings shall be cancelled until May 15th or the COVID-19 threat has been eliminated, but there is still no word on an official reopen date for casinos. Certain other businesses were given the go-ahead to begin reopening on May 8th if able to properly adhere to social distancing guidelines, but casinos remain closed indefinitely.

Illinois Sportsbooks: Potential June Reopening

  • Mobile betting available? Not yet
  • Retail sportsbooks closed? Yes
  • Firm reopen date announced? No; casinos hopeful to begin reopening June 1st
  • Illinois Sports Betting Details

Illinois kicked off sports betting at an unfortunate time. The state’s first sportsbook at Rivers Casino Des Plaines launched on March 9th, just days before the state ordered all casinos closed for two weeks.

The Illinois Gaming Board later extended the order, extended it again through April 30th and then extended it yet again “until further notice.” A new “Restore Illinois” plan has begun the early phases of reopening the state, but casinos will remain shuttered for the time being. The Illinois Gaming Association is hopeful casinos will be able to reopen in some capacity beginning June 1st.

Indiana Sportsbooks: Mid-June Launch Under Consideration

  • Mobile betting available? Yes
  • Retail sportsbooks closed? Yes
  • Firm reopen date announced? No, but a mid-June reopening looks possible
  • Indiana Sports Betting Details

The Indiana Gaming Commission ordered all casinos (and their sportsbooks) to close for two weeks beginning March 16th. Although that order has since expired, Indiana’s casinos remain closed amid a statewide stay-at-home order. The state as a whole is now slowly entering the reopening phase with the Back on Track plan that will see the state reopen in phases.

Indiana casinos will remain closed for the time being, but could be looking at a mid-June reopening. The Indiana Gaming Commission posted an update on its website explaining that although no firm start date has been established, casinos will likely begin reopening after the start of Phase 4, which is tentatively scheduled to begin June 14th.

Online and mobile sportsbooks are still operational. The Indiana Gaming Commission has approved wagering on additional sports such as table tennis and Belarusian hockey to help alleviate the pain, but betting options remain severely limited amid the cessation of sports leagues around the world.

Iowa Sportsbooks: Relaunch Timeline Uncertain

  • Mobile betting available? Yes, but customers must register in-person at a retail sportsbook
  • Retail sportsbooks closed? Yes
  • Firm reopen date announced? No; casinos closed until at least May 15th
  • Iowa Sports Betting Details

Governor Reynolds ordered all casinos closed through April 30th and later extended the order through May 15th. Mobile betting is still available for bettors who already registered for accounts before the closures, but new registrations are impossible due to state law requiring all mobile betting customers to complete registration in-person at a casino.

Michigan Sportsbooks: Reopening TBD

  • Mobile betting available? Not yet
  • Retail sportsbooks closed? Yes
  • Firm reopen date announced? Tribal casinos aiming for May 16th launch; commercial casinos in limbo
  • Michigan Sports Betting Details

Like Illinois, Michigan suffered unfortunate timing in the launch of its sports betting industry. Michigan’s first retail sportsbooks launched “just in time” for March Madness, which was subsequently cancelled out of coronavirus concerns.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board ordered the closure of all commercial casinos on March 16th and the state’s tribal casinos follow suited shortly after. The MGCB later extended the order to close casinos “until otherwise ordered.” Some tribal casinos are planning to restart on May 16th while Detroit mayor Mike Duggan says the city’s commercial casinos could remain closed for “months.”

Mobile betting was still in the works when Michigan shut down, but there are currently no options for betting online. Estimates prior to the coronavirus outbreak put the launch of mobile betting in early 2021.

Mississippi Sportsbooks: Reopening TBD

  • Mobile betting available? No
  • Retail sportsbooks closed? Yes
  • Firm reopen date announced? No; Memorial Day weekend a possible start date but too early to tell
  • Mississippi Sports Betting Details

Mississippi sportsbooks closed indefinitely on March 16th after the MS Gaming Commission ordered all casinos to cease operations. Officials at one point had hoped to allow casinos to begin reopening on Memorial Day weekend, but those plans are now in doubt as a result of Mississippi’s persistently high coronavirus numbers. Governor Reeves says that plan may still be viable but that it is still too early to tell even though the date is quicly approaching.

Montana Sports Betting: Back in Business

Sports betting kiosks launched in bars and taverns across Montana just as most of the major sports leagues shuttered indefinitely, leaving bettors with few wagering options. The MT Lottery says the system has a process in place to refund any outstanding wagers on events that are cancelled.

Governor Steve Bullock issued a stay-at-home order in March and later extended the order to April 24th. In May, Montana began reopening bars, restaurants and casinos under strict social distancing protocols.

Nevada Sportsbooks: Reopening Plans in Place

  • Mobile betting available? Yes, but closed for new registrations due to in-person registration requirement
  • Retail sportsbooks closed? Yes, but plans to reopen are in place
  • Firm reopen date announced? No
  • Nevada Sports Betting Details

Governor Sisolak mandated the closure of all Nevada casinos and non-essential services beginning March 17th and later extended the shutdown order through April 30th.

Mobile sportsbooks may still accept wagers through their apps, but new registrations are not possible due to in-person registration requirements.

The Nevada Gaming Commission is now planning how to let casinos reopen. On May 7th, the Commission approved policies that casinos may follow in order to gain approval to reopen. These policies include a variety of COVID-19 mitigation measures such as increased space between slots, reducing table game capacities, preventing large gatherings and more.

Regarding sportsbooks in particular, the policy states:

Plans must ensure that patrons do not congregate in groups and practice proper distancing in these areas. Plans must address how the race & sportsbook, keno lounge, bingo hall, and any other gaming area will be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis. Plans should also address the availability of hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes for patron use in these areas.

Casinos must submit their reopening plans at least a week before reopening and must have the approval of the Nevada Gaming Control Board in order to proceed.

New Hampshire Sports Betting Still Active

Mobile betting launched in New Hampshire in December through DraftKings and remains available despite a lack of options due to most sports leagues closing out of coronavirus concerns. Sixteen towns have also approved the construction of retail sportsbooks, but are not expected to launch until later this year (depending on how long coronavirus remains a disruptive issue).

Recently, the NH Lottery approved DraftKings to accept wagers on eNASCAR events in order to give customers one more option amid the dearth of traditional sports events.

New Jersey Sportsbooks: Reopen Date TBD

New Jersey sportsbooks and casinos have been closed since March 16th on order of Governor Murphy and there is no word yet on when they may reopen. Governor Murphy later extended the state of emergency order until at least June 5th.

Meanwhile, the Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ) is working with casinos on plans to safely reopen once the state eases its coronavirus restrictions. CANJ President Steve Callender recently said unique strategies are being planned for each casino and may include measures such as plexiglass partitions in certain areas and increased spacing between customers.

Jane Bokunewicz of the Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism also spoke with NJTV News recently and touched on the reopening of sportsbooks. She said in-person sportsbooks may be slow at first due to a lack of sports to bet on and increased social distancing measures but acknowledged there is probably a considerable amount of pent up demand:

Once sports betting gets back online, it’s conceivable to expect that even the people who use to bet face-to-face in the casinos will now bet online. Initially, maybe you’ll still be able to go to a bar if you sit 6 feet away from the next the person, but it’s not going to be that social experience that it was before the shutdown…

Online sportsbooks and casinos remain open, although sports betting markets are still limited amid the cancellation of sports leagues around the world. New Jersey regulators have worked with mobile sports betting operators to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement approved wagers on virtual NASCAR races and other niche sports such as table tennis through late April.

New Mexico Sportsbooks: Potential June Relaunch

All New Mexico sportsbooks and casinos have been closed since March to promote social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic. On April 15th, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said current restrictions would likely remain in place indefinitely.

Reopening plans revealed in May detail a scenario in which casinos could reopen in a limited capacity beginning in early June if the state’s goals on a low coronavirus transmission rate are met. This would happen in phase two of a three-phase plan that will see the state slowly reopen and reevaluate as it goes.

New York Sportsbooks: Timeline Uncertain; Tribes Discussing Plans

New York seems to be turning the corner as new cases slow from previous peaks, but the state remains under a stay-at-home order for the foreseeable future. Casinos and sportsbooks closed to the public in March and it is unknown when they will reopen.

However, Governor Cuomo may be in the early stages of pivoting from stockpiling ventilators to planning how the state will reopen. Governor Cuomo has formed a joint task force with the governors of New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode Island to do just that.

In the meantime, some of New York’s casinos are now looking at plans to reopen despite not having a firm launch date. The Oneida Nation, for example, has begun discussing reopening plans and how it will safely reopen its casinos.

Oregon: Chinook Winds Still Closed; Mobile Betting an Option

Mobile sports betting is still available through the Oregon Lottery’s Scoreboard app and the state’s only retail sportsbook is closed indefinitely. Governor Kate Brown recently said the state will not reopen until there is a definitive decline in active cases and she is assured the state can handle a resurgence in cases.

Pennsylvania: Mobile Betting Available; Retail Sportsbooks Still Closed

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board ordered all casinos and retail sportsbooks to close in March and has not determined a likely reopen date. Mobile sports betting is unaffected by the casino closures.

A timeline for reopening Pennsylvania sportsbooks is still up in the air. Governor Wolf has outlined a process to reopen Pennsylvania over the course of three phases. Casinos will be among the last businesses given the go-ahead to reopen, but the state’s casinos are also working on plans for when they do receive the green light.

Rhode Island Sportsbooks: Lottery Making Reopening Plans

Rhode Island’s retail sportsbooks remain closed indefinitely until further notice. Mobile betting is still available through the Sportsbook RI website for customers who have already registered. State law requires new sports bettors to register in-person, which will not be possible until at least one of Rhode Island’s two casinos reopen.

The Rhode Island Lottery is now forming plans for reopening its casinos in phases pending the approval of Governor Raimondo. The RI Lottery is reluctant to reveal its plans in too much detail until they are approved, but potential measures include opening VLTs first with proper social distancing measures in place before opening table games and other areas.

Tennessee Sports Betting: Online Sportsbooks Still A Work in Progress

Tennessee legalized mobile betting in 2019 and is still working out plans to launch the first online sportsbooks. Despite the statewide stay-at-home order, state officials approved sports betting regulations on April 15th to bring the launch of the first mobile sportsbooks one big step closer to reality.

West Virginia: Mobile Betting Available; Retail Sportsbooks In Progress

West Virginia closed its casinos and retail sportsbooks in March, but mobile betting remains available. The dearth of active sports leagues led to FanDuel initiating an ill-fated attempt to offer wagers on politics, but the WV Lottery quickly shut that down. Meanwhile, the state’s retail sportsbooks remain closed.

In late April, Governor Justice revealed an aggressive plan to reopen West Virginia using a week-by-week approach. WV casinos may begin slowly reopening in Week 3, which begins in week three. West Virginia’s casinos have confirmed they are now working on plans to reopen safely.

Tracking the Restart of the Sports Leagues

While mobile betting sites have made do with Russian table tennis and other niche sports during the covid-19 pandemic, any sense of a return to normalcy can only happen once the world’s major sports leagues get up and running once again, even if it is in a limited capacity at first.

International and domestic leagues have already begun working out plans for restarting competitive sports. Below is an overview of where each league currently stands and what plans it has announced regarding a restart. ESPN has a handy reference guide here, which we will be partially relying on for updates.

Basketball Reopening: NBA

  • Targeted Restart Date: June or July

The NBA’s decision to cancel the season indefinitely on March 11th was the moment the coronavirus became real for many Americans. The NBA was the first pro league in the country to call off the season, and it did so in dramatic fashion after Rudy Gobert tested positive just ahead of that day’s Utah Jazz – Oklahoma City Thunder game.

The NBA is reportedly optimistic about restarting play, possibly as early as June, but the league has not yet announced a firm plan. League executives have reportedly floated a range of proposals, including quarantining all players and staff in a central location and playing games without spectators. A casino, a midwestern university and the Bahamas have all been suggested by league executives.

Update: The NBA is beginning to shift its focus toward returning to some sense of normalcy. Some teams have been given the go-ahead to reopen their practice facilities for limited workouts. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says he is aiming for a limited restart in June or July in certain locations as long as there is adequate testing throughout the United States to ensure the league is not using tests that are needed for frontline healthcare workers.

Football: NFL Still On for September

  • Targeted Restart Date: September

Aside from a virtual draft, the NFL is in a holding pattern regarding the upcoming season. The league is still tentatively set to resume in September as scheduled, but league executives and owners are currently drawing up contingency plans amid an uncertain future.

Those contingency plans could include a shortened season or games played without fans and a commitment to flexibility in rescheduling games as needed. One advantage the NFL has working in its favor is the opportunity to watch how other sports leagues deal with the coronavirus problem before it has to make those hard decisions itself.

Caesars Entertainment has remained engaged with the NFL as much as possible in the meantime. In April, Caesars launched a free and nationwide NFL Draft Pick’em contest for the virtual draft held on April 23rd.

Update: In early May, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent out a memo outlining the guidelines for how training facilities may reopen. The plan include having teams get permission from state governments, establishing a club infection response team and more. The letter asks teams to have the plan in place by May 15th with hopes to resume training as quickly as possible once every team in the league is ready.

Baseball: MLB Looking at July

  • Targeted Restart Date: July

The MLB cancelled its remaining Spring Training games and indefinitely delayed the start of the regular season on March 12th. The league is now considering proposals for a restart, including potentially quarantining the entire league in Arizona or temporarily restructuring the MLB into two leagues according to their spring training locations. The latter plan would create the Cactus League based out of Arizona and the Grapefruit League based out of Florida.

In other news, the MLB is playing a key role in a large antibody testing study that aims to shine a light on the true spread of coronavirus in the US. Researchers are currently testing all employees of 27 teams, from hot dog vendors to general managers, for coronavirus antibodies.

The resulting data will hopefully show how widespread coronavirus is and, hopefully, begin identifying people who are now immune after having already recovered from a past coronavirus infection.

Update: Multiple outlets are now reporting the MLB will soon submit a plan to the MLB Player’s Association detailing its restart plans. If the plan is accepted and all goes well, the MLB may be looking at resuming the season on July 1st.

Hockey: NHL Reportedly Considering a July Restart (Unconfirmed)

  • Targeted Restart Date: To be announced; some sources indicate a July restart is possible

The NHL paused its season on March 12th and has not yet determined when it will restart. League officials and players are itching to return as quickly as possible, but Commissioner Gary Bettman says how the league will manage a return to normalcy remains “cloudy at best.”

However, Commissioner Bettman also says all options are on the table. “Nothing’s been ruled in, nothing’s been ruled out,” he told NBC’s Lunch Talk Live on April 7th.

The best thing, and the easiest thing, would be if at some point we could complete the regular season and then go into the playoffs as we normally do. We understand that that may not be possible and that’s why we’re considering every conceivable alternative to deal with whatever the eventuality is. Again, it doesn’t even pay to speculate because nobody in any of the sports knows enough now to make those profound decisions.

More recently, the NHL said it is pleased with current discussions related to forming a firm plan to resume play. The NHL and NHLPA have not committed to a specific date but are considering authorizing small group activities at NHL training facilities beginning in mid or late May.

Update: The New York Post reports the NHL is now considering abandoning the 2019-20 season and instead hosting a 24-team tournament, potentially beginning in July.

Golf: PGA Tour Aiming for June Restart

  • Targeted Restart Date: June 8th

Golf betting may resume as soon as June if all goes well. The PGA Tour recently announced tentative plans to restart competitive play on June 8th with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas.

In a news release, the PGA Tour explained its broad strategy for safely reopening:

At this time, the TOUR plans to resume play with the first four events closed to the general public but will continue to monitor the situation and follow the recommendations of local and state authorities in order to determine the most appropriate on-site access in each market. As such, the TOUR will continually review available COVID-19-related protocols that could be implemented at PGA TOUR events to ensure the health and well-being for all involved.

College Sports: NCAA Still Undecided

  • Targeted Restart Date: To be announced

The NCAA cancelled the Division I basketball championship and all remaining winter and spring championships on March 12th.

Sports and physical activities are on pause indefinitely, but the NCAA has announced teams in all sports may require up to eight hours per week of nonphysical team activities such as film review and team meetings.

Additionally, the NCAA voted in March to grant all spring sport student athletes an extra year of eligibility.

Update: The NCAA has put out a document discussing the “core principles” of restarting college sports. The document does not give a timeline for reopening, but rather explains what needs to happen before the NCAA will give colleges the green light to resume sports.

Tennis: ATP and WTA Considering July Restart

  • Targeted Restart Date: July 13th

Coronavirus has not spared tennis betting as the ATP and WTA have suspended their tours until July 13th, 2020. According to a joint announcement, both organizations plan to hold all tournaments scheduled from July 13th onward as originally scheduled. The Tour now measures time in 6-8 week chunks, as that is the advance notice it requests from tournament organizers as to whether or not a tournament will go on.

Additionally, the French Tennis Federation rescheduled the French Open until September 20th while Wimbledon was cancelled outright. The USTA is still aiming to hold the US Open in August but says it will make a final decision by June. Meanwhile, Tennis Australia is making contingency plans for the Australian Open in case COVID-19 is still causing widescale disruptions in January.

Mixed Martial Arts: UFC Back in Action

  • Restart Date: May 9th

UFC President Dana White has been perhaps the most adamant public figure in sports in pushing the show to go on despite coronavirus. One plan he cooked up involved hosting UFC 249 on April 18th with no audience on tribal ground in California. Higher-ups at Disney and ESPN quashed that plan, but Dana White was able to instead host the fight card in Jacksonville, Florida on May 9th.

Motor Racing: NASCAR Back in May

  • Targeted Restart Date: May 17th

A NASCAR statement issued on April 17th states the organization intends “to run all 36 races, with a potential return to racing without fans in attendance in May at a date and location to be determined.”

A restart in Florida remains a distinct possibility. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has spoken with NASCAR about potentially restarting racing in the Sunshine State and supports the idea, but nothing official has been announced as of yet.

In the meantime, iRacing provides an alternative for fans still waiting for the return of the real thing. The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series events are consistently drawing more than 1 million viewers.

Update: NASCAR has announced that it plans to hold seven races in May, beginning with a fan-less race on Sunday, May 17th at Darlington Raceway.

Soccer: MLS Still Touch and Go

  • Targeted Return Date: June 8th at the earliest

Major League Soccer paused its season in March until May 10th, but later said it would extend the waiting period until at least June 8th. In a statement issued on April 17th, MLS said this:

MLS remains focused on exploring a wide variety of formats for playing the entire 2020 season including pushing back MLS Cup into December or later. Based on the most recent government guidance, we have extended the moratorium on matches until at least June 8. Like all Leagues, we are in discussion with our players about changes to player compensation due to the financial impact on the league and our clubs from the COVID-19 Crisis. We are seeking to work collaboratively with the MLSPA to find a solution that provides a safety net for all players, opportunity to earn full salary in the scenario where all matches are played with fans, and in particular provides protection for the players at the lower end of the salary scale.

The MLS resumed voluntary solo workouts on May 6th, but have not committed to a restart plan as of yet.

XFL: Likely Closed Permanently

Vince McMahon’s attempt at establishing a professional football alternative to the NFL has been derailed once again. The XFL canceled the remainder of its season in March and filed for bankruptcy in April, likely signaling the permanent closure of the league.

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