We are now less than a couple of weeks shy of the Coronavirus having a two-month effect on the sports world. In those seven weeks or so since sports leagues began shutting down, casinos and poker rooms across the country also began shutting down. As we begin to enter May, it is clear that we still won’t see live sport betting action in the United States for at least weeks still as NASCAR will return on May 17th. As for casinos and poker rooms, it is unknown how long it will take each state to get back on track. However, while all of this is going down, online gambling is acting as a saving grace for gamblers and poker players.
Live Poker Events Around The World
Major live poker events around the country began suspending or canceling action as early as mid-February. The World Poker Tour announced back on February 14th that they would cancel all Asian tour events and reschedule their Taiwan stop to May 14th-24th. This was the first major poker league to take action in regard to the Coronavirus.
On March 15th, the United States poker world began to see the effects of Coronavirus. The World Series of Poker Circuit was in Atlantic City when all of the casinos and sports shutdowns began to happen in the US. After completing eight events, the WSOP Circuit canceled the remaining events at Harrah’s Atlantic City. Other WSOP Circuit Tour events across the country have been canceled as well.
The biggest like poker events in the world are part of the 51-day World Series of Poker events that take place in Las Vegas every year. This year, the events were originally scheduled to begin on May 26th. After holding out hopes of not having to postpone or cancel anything, the WSOP finally gave in on April 21st when they announced that the WSOP series would be pushed back a couple of months, possibly into the fall months. As of now, no exact date has been giving to when the WSOP would begin.
Casinos Across The United States Shut Down
In Las Vegas, the casino capital of the United States, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak announced the mandatory closure of all casinos on March 17th. According to the American Gaming Association, as of Thursday, March 19th, 95 percent of U.S. commercial casinos have been closed. Fast forward to the end of April and virtually all casinos in the United States are closed and it is unknown for sure when any will begin opening.
How Online Poker and Casinos Have Been Thriving
For gamblers and poker players, an economic shutdown as major as this couldn’t have come at a better time in terms of options to still play. Virtually anywhere in the world a person can have access to some form of online casino or poker room, some regulated and some not.
In Pennsylvania, for example, online poker and casino play has skyrocketed in March and likely will continue to be high when April’s numbers come out. In March, Pennsylvania saw more than $21 million in online casino revenue. For comparison, the state saw just $11.8 million in January. FanDuel was the only online casino operator in Pennsylvania that didn’t see an increase in revenue from February to March.
PokerStars is the only legal and regulated poker site in Pennsylvania. Despite being the only online poker option in Pennsylvania, the action is skyrocketing there as well. In February, PokerStars Pennsylvania saw just over $1.8 million in revenue. In the month of March, that number jumped to over $3.1 million. The Pennsylvania Spring Championship of Online Poker (PASCOOP) crushed their guaranteed tournament payouts. Expecting to pay out $2 million in guarantees, the PASCOOP paid out over $3.2 million with all of the increased traffic across the 50 events.
States Without Online Poker, Casinos or Sportsbooks Missing Out
For states that have legalized sports betting but have refused to legalize online sports betting may be feeling some regret in times like these. There may not be too many betting options for American gamblers right now, but large online operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings do have some options available (table tennis and Belarusian Soccer League). While it may not be large amounts of revenue, online sportsbooks are at least giving bettors action and pulling in some sort of revenue that physical sportsbooks located at casinos can not make with casinos still being shut down.
Only a handful of states have legal online poker in the US (Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania). Other states have been pushing to legalize online poker but none have followed just yet. Without having the option to play at live poker venues, players will be looking to take their game online. Unfortunately, these players are at the mercy of offshore poker sites where financial aspects aren’t as favorable as a safe and regulated site within their state lines.
The same could be said about online casinos. Just another example of states losing tax revenue to offshore gambling sites while US residents are forced to gamble by playing on these unsafe sites.