ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – There's still darts.
Or New Zealand cricket.
The fast-spreading coronavirus has led to an unprecedented slew of cancellations or suspensions of most major professional and college sports events in the U.S., particularly within the last 48 hours. Baseball, basketball, hockey, pro soccer and college basketball all announced they were either suspending or postponing the start of their seasons due to the virus and the advice of medical professionals to avoid large gatherings that could help further spread the disease.
The virus is a deadly serious concern that's causing the cancellation of events worth untold millions of dollars, and is disrupting people's lives in many ways. For those who routinely bet on sports, it has taken most of the action off the board.
“I feel a little empty inside,” said Jef Corrales, a retired marine who lives near Charlotte, North Carolina. “Now I don't really have anything to talk about. As guys into sports, that's how we communicate: ‘Who’d you bet on, why did you do that?' I don't know what else to do now.
“Since October, this is the first day I didn't make a bet," he said. “Actually, I did, but they got canceled.”
On Thursday, the major college conferences canceled their championship tournaments, including one game that made it to halftime before being abandoned. Hours later, the NCAA canceled its national championship tournaments for men and women.
In addition to the official bets, the NCAA Tournament is the nation's largest unofficial gambling event. Millions of office pools are also canceled.
Major League Baseball, due to begin its season in two weeks, said it was pushing the start back at least two weeks and suspending all spring training games.
An untold portion of the millions in lost economic activity that would result if the suspensions last for any length of time would include lost revenue at sports books in the U.S., where legal sports betting is in its third year of expansion following a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
“It's uncharted territory,” said Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill US. “You don't know how long it's going to last. Obviously the timing's not great, right before the NCAA tournament.”
On a home page on which it used to list upcoming basketball, football and baseball games, among other events, the Golden Nugget's online sports book on Thursday featured a handful of soccer games in Europe, Brazil Iceland and Mexico; a golf championship; a New Zealand cricket match, and three darts matches. (Yes. Darts.)
On a popular Facebook group devoted to sports betting, several users were speculating about betting on chess or checkers games.
Late Thursday the fledgling football league the XFL canceled the remainder of its season, which had five weeks left.
The effect on pre-season proposition bets, such as the number of regular season wins a team will earn, is yet to be determined. FanDuel said futures bets for things like the NBA champion and conference champions are still valid. Other futures bets are currently off the site pending word from the NBA on how it plans to resume the remainder of the season, although futures bets that have already been placed are considered active until the league gives further guidance.
Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC