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March Madness canceled, dealing $4 billion blow to sports betting industry

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With coronavirus COVID-19 concerns and precautionary measures continuing to mount, it was only a matter of time before the NCAA Tournament was canceled. That time came Thursday afternoon, when the NCAA announced March Madness would not take place. Even before the decision came down, sportsbook operators were bracing for it and the impact will be extensive.

Nevada Gaming Control Board senior research analyst Mike Lawton told Covers that basketball betting handle for March 2019 was a whopping $498.7 million. In previous years, it’s been estimated that 70 percent of March basketball handle was on NCAA Tournament games, which would equate to $349 million last year.

Sportsbooks held $36.5 million of the total March 2019 hoops handle, or 7.3 percent, which is a solid if not spectacular number. If there’s no March Madness, recovering from such a blow would be difficult.

“I think we were all expecting the tournament to be canceled at this point,” said Jay Kornegay, who oversees operation of The SuperBook as vice president of race and sports for Westgate Resorts. “It’s one of the biggest, if not the biggest, events of the year for us. It’s really difficult to quantify what it means to us, because there are so many parts of that revenue stream.

“There are so many incremental benefits of the tournament, not just for sportsbooks, but for the entire city.”

Indeed, Las Vegas as a whole gets a huge boost from March Madness traffic. Sportsbooks are the focal point, but food and beverage, shows, and all the other casino gaming options reap benefits from those traveling in to wager on the NCAA Tournament.

And with the expansion of legal, regulated sports betting, 15 other states are impacted, as well. That would include Illinois and Michigan, which just went live this week and anticipated heavy March Madness turnout.

The American Gaming Association is closely monitoring the situation, not just from a sports betting perspective but across the broader gaming industry. At this time, though, the AGA does not have impact estimates.

However, a 2019 AGA survey found that 47 million American adults would wager a total of $8.5 billion on March Madness. While the majority of that sum – $4.6 billion – was in the form of bracket pools, that still left a hefty $3.9 billion wagered through either legal sportsbook operators or online, with a bookie or with a friend.

Coronavirus implications extend far beyond the NCAA Tournament. The NBA suspended its season Wednesday night (two players have tested positive), the NHL followed suit Thursday, and Major League Baseball announced Thursday that it is delaying the start of the season – initially March 26 – by at least two weeks. If the NBA and NHL don’t resume, that adds to the impact on sportsbooks’ bottom line.

But the NCAA Tournament is far more significant, even more so than the Super Bowl, as the tourney stretches across three weekends. The 2020 Super Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs posted Nevada handle of $154.7 million, and annually the game is the largest single-day sports betting event by a mile. But as Nevada Gaming Control board statistics show, March Madness handle dwarfs the Super Bowl number.

Kornegay stressed that while March without the Madness is hugely disappointing, there are much more important matters at hand as coronavirus is dealt with at the local, state and national levels.

“Just like everybody else, we’ve really enhanced our safety protocols,” Kornegay said. “It’s unfortunate what we’re dealing with. But at this point, it’s really about protecting our guests and team members.”

Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.

Verlander injury shuffles Astros’ MLB futures odds

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MLB betting got a shake-up Sunday afternoon, specifically on World Series odds and AL pennant odds, with news that Astros star pitcher Justin Verlander could miss the rest of the season – or at least a significant chunk of it – with an arm injury.

Initial reports suggested Verlander had an elbow ailment, but both he and manager Dusty Baker quickly denied that. Baker called it a forearm strain and said that Verlander would be re-evaluated in “a couple of weeks.” The reigning AL Cy Young winner pitched a solid six innings in an 8-2 Opening Day rout of the Seattle Mariners on Friday.

Verlander’s injury led oddsmakers to shuffle futures book odds on the defending AL champions. Covers checked in on the MLB odds moves with a couple of Las Vegas sportsbooks.

How does Verlander’s injury affect Astros’ World Series odds?

At CG Technology books, risk analyst Rich Zanco said the Astros quickly moved from +1,200 to +1,800 in World Series futures. The SuperBook at Westgate also had Houston pegged +1,200 prior to Sunday’s news and initially went to +1,600, then dialed it a little further to +1,800.

However, there were apparently buyers on the Astros at that point, prompting the SuperBook to reel the price in to +1,400.

How does Verlander’s injury affect Astros’ American League odds?

In AL pennant futures, the Astros initially moved from +600 to +800 at The SuperBook, then ticked back to +700.

World Series odds

Team Odds to win
Los Angeles Dodgers +350
New York Yankees +350
Houston Astros +600
Atlanta Braves +1,600
Minnesota Twins +1,600
Tampa Bay Rays +1,800
Washington Nationals +2,000
Cleveland Indians +2,000
New York Mets +2,000
Chicago Cubs +2,000
Oakland Athletics +2,000
St. Louis Cardinals +2,500
Cincinnati Reds +2,500
San Diego Padres +2,500
Philadelphia Phillies +3,000
Chicago White Sox +3,000
Los Angeles Angels +3,000
Milwaukee Brewers +4,000
Boston Red Sox +5,000
Arizona Diamondbacks +6,000
Colorado Rockies +8,000
Toronto Blue Jays +10,000
Texas Rangers +10,000
Pittsburgh Pirates +20,000
Detroit Tigers +20,000
San Francisco Giants +30,000
Seattle Mariners +30,000
Miami Marlins +30,000
Baltimore Orioles +30,000
Kansas City Royals +30,000

Odds courtesy The SuperBook

MLB picks and predictions for Opening Day

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It was a long and scary road, but we finally get MLB betting back on Thursday, July 23. Opening Day of the pandemic-shortened 60-game baseball schedule is headlined by a pair of matchups, with the New York Yankees visiting the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers rekindling their rivalry with the San Francisco Giants.

Like we do each MLB season (COVID-19 or not), we’ll be taking a swing at today’s baseball odds and giving our best MLB picks and predictions. Up first: Opening Day 2020.

MLB picks for today

New York Yankees vs Washington Nationals

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge was supposed to miss the start of the season back in the spring, but the delay to the 2020 campaign allowed the outfielder to heal up from broken ribs and return to his longball-launching self.

Judge looked great in New York’s warmup games, albeit for a limited number of at-bats. He went 3-for-7 with all three hits leaving the ballpark. And he wasn’t alone, with the Yankees’ other power bats providing plenty of pop around him in the order. He’ll get a chance to go yard again on Opening Day.

PREDICTION: Aaron Judge home run (+210)

San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers

The Giants are no strangers to Clayton Kershaw, who has long dominated the Dodgers’ divisional foes. In 49 career appearances against San Francisco, The Claw is 23-12 with a 1.74 ERA and has allowed just 0.71 hits per innings pitched in those starts.

The Giants don’t pose much of an offensive threat, averaging 8.22 hits per game in 2019. San Francisco has managed 45 total hits in its last eight starts against Kershaw – an average of 0.86 hits per inning faced. Given the Dodgers’ ace looked ready for work in his tune-up efforts, we could see him go seven innings or more on Thursday, panning out to a little over six hits for San Fran.

PREDICTION: Giants between 6-7 total hits (+235)

Mookie Betts has reportedly landed a whale of a contract extension with the Dodgers after joining the ballclub this offseason via a trade with the Boston Red Sox. And what better way to lock down that deal than an impressive effort on Opening Day.

Betts recorded 313 total bases in 2019 (30th) and 353 in 2018 (fourth). He’s been swinging well in training sessions this offseason: in 27 at-bats during the spring/summer schedule, he has 13 total bases, including two doubles and a home run, while hitting leadoff during Summer Camp. We like that to continue into Opening Day.

PREDICTION: Mookie Betts two or more total bases (-182)

Top MLB consensus for today

Want to know who today’s biggest MLB betting and consensus bets are right now? Check out our top MLB consensus picks.

Opening Day betting card

  • Aaron Judge home run (+210)
  • Giants between 6-7 total hits (+235)
  • Mookie Betts two or more total bases (-182)