Mar 12, 2020
Sportsbooks in Las Vegas react to Coronavirus and Cancellations of major sporting events, NCAA
Las Vegas sportsbooks adjusting to COVID-19 virus
China’s coronavirus is wreaking havoc in the sportsbook industry, not because it’s being spread by guests in the large casinos and sportsbooks but because it’s wiped out almost the entire wagering menu in one of the most bet months of the year. March Madness as we know it is in big trouble in Las Vegas, Nevada.
After it was announced Wednesday night that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert had caught the coronavirus, the NBA put its regular season on hiatus. Soon the NHL and MLS followed suit and MLB is shutting down spring training in Arizona and Florida and delaying opening day for two weeks.
In addition to all the revenues lost Thursday by not having any games to bet on, future wagers involving season win totals are in jeopardy to become refunds. Station Casinos rules for season 'Win Totals' in the NBA and 'Point Totals" in the NHL states that the 82 regular games must be played for action.
|Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was the first NBA player to test positive, which prompted the league to suspend the season. (AP)|
In college hoops, 14 conference tournaments were canceled on Thursday, one week before the NCAA Tournament is expected to start which the NCAA initially planned to go on as scheduled with no fans in the stands, but now Duke, Kansas, and Arizona State has grounded all their sports programs which are likely to force the NCAA’s hand and delay it.
The first four days of the NCAA Tournament is the most popular four consecutive days annually at Las Vegas sportsbooks.
“We’ve got a lot of people in the hotel (Mirage) who were here for ConExpo and the Pac-12 tournament, but a lot of them are staying in their rooms and some of them are even playing horses with us from there," said MGM Resorts sportsbook director Jeff Stoneback.
All of these leagues are shutting down but the horse racing tracks with the oldest clientele susceptible to catching the virus of any group are still business as usual.
VegasInsider.com offering horse racing expert picks and daily free winners and betting advice until the tracks close.
Stoneback said Thursday morning that three college basketball tournaments still had not been canceled and they’ll take center stage with bettors as the only thing to bet. He’s got a lot of adjusting to do with his staffing schedule.
Editor's Note -- All college basketball tournaments have been canceled.
“Yesterday I worked on our March Madness schedule for a couple of hours using all extra’s and the full staff, but that goes in the trash now,” Stoneback said. “We’ll wait for more news and put next week’s schedule out later than usual.”
NASCAR and the PGA Tour will still run their weekly events for now, but no fans will be allowed to attend.
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The NFL Draft is still scheduled to take place in Las Vegas on April 23, but if the reins of this virus don’t get pulled in soon, there’s a possibility it won’t take place or have no fan involvement.
In my time in Las Vegas, I’ve seen this city withstand every dilemma placed in front of it from hotels catching fire, floods, 9-11 attacks, the stock market crash, and a mass murder shooting.
|Sportsbooks in Nevada will feel the crunch this month and so will other legal operators in the United States. (AP)|
But last week I walked the Las Vegas Strip for a few days and it felt different for being the first week in March. The casino floors were near vacant. Quiet...
And then MGM Resorts shut down all their buffets at 10 properties and three high-end restaurants at Mandalay Bay to start the week despite a big convention and two college basketball tournaments in town.
Expect to see layoffs at most casinos in Las Vegas, or at least a shredded schedule with no extras or part-time employees working and the full-time employees usually working 40 hours dropped down to 32 hours with all of them encouraged to take a vacation or time off.
With revenues well below what was forecasted for March, the only way to control expenses is by cutting labor to a skeleton crew.
I think I’m a little scared -- not about catching the virus, but about the welfare of Las Vegas and all my friends in the sportsbook and casino business and their families that may be affected by the economic downturn the virus has spurred.
Be safe everyone. Stay clean, wash your hands often and let’s collectively rid our nation of this disease. We'll get through this.
See you all back in Las Vegas soon!
Roberts is a former Las Vegas sports book director that has been covering the sports betting industry for the last 15 years.