No sport means no business for the bookmakers.
For major companies like the Flutter Entertainment Group, whose brands include Paddy Power and Betfair, more than 80% of their revenue comes from sports betting, and while firms such as William Hill and 888sport are less reliant on sports due to complimentary products like casino gaming and poker, they are still millions down since the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
It’s a staggering situation that has seen Flutter, Hills and GVC Holdings (Ladbrokes, Coral et al) lose a combined £7 billion of their market valuation since February, and the knock-on effects of that in the long-term are not yet known – shop closures and mass unemployment seem inevitable.
The hope is that some major sporting action, be it behind closed doors or otherwise, may return in the summer, and what a joyous moment that will be for punters shorn of any ‘proper’ betting opportunities.
Or are they? The bookies are still delving into the weird and wonderful to help keep people entertained during this period of isolation, and you won’t believe some of the things you can have a flutter on right now….
The Beautiful Game Knows No Bounds
Horse racing and football are the bookies’ two bankers when it comes to revenue and turnover, and while the former has pretty much been locked down worldwide, the latter continues to thrive….sort of.
Punters can enjoy such rich pickings as the Belarus Premier League, the Tajikistan Vysshaya Liga and the Nicaraguan Clausura, where they seem to be oblivious to the scale of COVID-19.
Or maybe they’re not. In Nicaragua, it was reported that players were considering going on strike such is their fear of catching the virus, while in Belarus the President has a novel idea that drinking vodka, frequenting the sauna and working on a farm can keep coronavirus at bay.
The likes of Belarus and Tajikistan are at the sporting frontline at the moment, with their basketball, ice hockey and table tennis competitions also continuing at pace.
And some betting firms have noted a ‘1400% increase’ in the numbers of bets wagered on football in the Eastern European nations.
Losing Their Marbles
It seems that anything with a competitive element is catching the eye of the betting community.
In the USA and parts of Europe, there has been frantic wagering action on competitive marbles – the so-called ‘Marbula One’ competition.
To prove that the truth really is stranger than fiction, punters can bet on which team they think will win, the time of their margin of victory, fastest lap and number of marbles to finish the race, and so on.
A Brave New World
There has been a sense for a while that one of the major betting growth areas in years to come will be eSports.
Given that competitions in the likes of FIFA and CS:GO can continue without any social interaction, it’s unsurprising that these eSports events have enjoyed an upturn in interest.
There was the fantastic FIFA ‘Quaranteam’ event organised by Leyton Orient FC that has raised funds for a number of charities, and bookies have also got involved by taking bets and donating proceeds to their charitable causes.
On a similar note comes virtual sports, which betting sites have offered for a number of years.
Punters aren’t always sold on these – they think they are rigged somehow, but nothing could be further from the truth as the software is fitted with an algorithm which ensures the action is fair and unpredictable.
Bookies have teamed up with some really innovative firms that are producing ultra-realistic action and graphics across horse racing, football, tennis, cricket and more, and it is *almost* as good as the real thing.
Donald Trumped and the Tiger King
TV land has been largely unaffected by COVID-19, and the bookies are adapting their betting offer so that punters can get involved in a number of different ways.
Donald Trump is proving to be a more divisive figure than ever right now, and some US bookies are running over/under markets on the words the President will use, such as ‘fantastic’, ‘incredible’ and, alarmingly, ‘not our fault’.
And then there’s all of these gems:
They are also offering prices on whether the US Presidential election will take place in November or not, should the coronavirus pandemic still be in the offing then.
Blockbuster shows like Ozark, Survivor and The Bachelor are attracting plenty of interest too, but no release has captured the imagination of the isolating public quite like Tiger King.
This sort of murder-mystery show features an eclectic cast of oddballs and mavericks, and the bookies are incredibly taking bets on who might play who in a Hollywood adaptation of the series.
Kevin Bacon and Edward Norton are the favourites to take the lead role of Joe Exotic, a character that has to be seen to be believed, while Kristen Wiig and Laura Dern are the hot picks to fil the shoes of Exotic’s nemesis Carole Baskin.
In these strange times, the bookmakers are doing their best to keep business on track….