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.

Canucks vs Golden Knights picks and predictions for Game 1


Perhaps no team has been more fun to follow during the NHL playoffs than the Vancouver Canucks, and hockey bettors can still get the Canucks at +1,300 to hoist Lord Stanley’s cup. Vancouver is coming off a thrilling series win against the defending champion St. Louis Blues, but now a much more difficult challenge awaits. The Vegas Golden Knights are +350 favorites to win it all, and they’ve certainly looked the part while dropping only one playoff contest.

Game 1 of this series gets underway Sunday, so we’re here to bring you our NHL picks and predictions in this Western Conference semifinal showdown.

Vancouver Canucks vs Vegas Golden Knights betting preview

Starting Goalies

Canucks: Jacob Markstrom – playoffs – 7-3, 2.44 GAA, .929 SV% (season – 23-16, 2.75 GAA, .918 SV%)

Golden Knights: Robin Lehner – playoffs – 5-1, 2.44 GAA, .904 SV% (season – 19-10, 2.89, .920 SV%)

If this game was actually played in Las Vegas, then Markstrom could easily spend a few hours performing with Cirque du Soleil. The 30-year-old dazzled against Blues with an eye-opening array of acrobatic saves and an impressive 7-3 record. He’ll need to provide more of the same against a dangerous Vegas squad.

The Knights will likely roll with Robin Lehner, who has taken over the spot as Vegas’s starter in the crease—and rightfully so. Still, the Knights have the luxury of having Marc-Andre Fleury as their “backup.” The five-time All-Star matched an NHL record this season with his 14th consecutive playoff appearance.


Vancouver: Tyler Myers D (out), Tyler Toffoli RW (out), Micheal Ferland LW (out), Josh Leivo LW (out)

Vegas: Tomas Nosek LW (out)

Betting Trend to Know

Canucks are 0-6 in their last six Sunday games. Find the latest NHL betting trends for Canucks vs. Golden Knights.


The Canucks have been a force with the extra man during the postseason, converting 26.2% of their power plays. While the Knights are known for their offensive firepower, it’s their stingy defense that allows them to suffocate opponents—as evidenced by an 86.4% penalty kill during their playoff run. Vancouver is the only team in the league to never beat Vegas in regulation, going 0-11 all time. That’s something I just can’t ignore.

PREDICTION: Vegas ML (-175)


Each team is filled with loads of offensive talent. Vancouver’s Bo Horvat and J.T. Miller have combined for 11 goals thus far. Elias Pettersson has racked up 13 points, tied with Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon for the playoff lead.

The Knights can match Vancouver’s scorers, but they’re more balanced—Shea Theodore, Alex Tuch and Mark Stone have each lit the lamp four times during the postseason. The difference is on defense, where Vancouver has allowed the most high-danger chances of all remaining playoff teams.

PREDICTION: Over 5.5 (-110)


Though I like Vegas to win, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Canucks kept it close and continued their offensive success. I’ll take a flyer on Vancouver scoring at least three goals.

PREDICTION: Canucks total goals Over 2.5 (-100)

Canucks vs Golden Knights Betting Card

  • Vegas ML (-175)
  • Over 5.5 (-110)
  • Canucks total goals Over 2.5 (-100)
NHL Parlays

Did you know that if you parlayed today’s NHL Canucks vs Golden Knights picks, you could win $104.93 on a $10 bet?

Use our NHL parlay calculator to create your own parlays and see their potential payouts.

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