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With most sports on hiatus, will betting on eSports become popular?

24th March, 18:25

Sportsbooks are finding ways to stay afloat as the coronavirus has forced the suspension of most sports competitions

The Coronavirus pandemic forced the suspension of the , , NHL, and professional soccer seasons, as well as the outright March Madness tournament.

So what are sports bettors betting on now? Last week, the sports on the home page of popular online sportsbook DraftKings's website that people could bet on were professional darts, German soccer, the Kontinental Hockey League, and New Zealand cricket.

If there are limited sports to bet on, sports betting will obviously suffer. To fill the vacuum, sportsbooks are getting creative.

" "I suspect this could be a moment for Esports. If it isn't, it will never be." "

-- Jason Ader, CEO of SpringOwl Asset Management

"We remain as committed as ever to giving our fans more ways to win," a FanDuel spokesperson told MarketWatch. "We're currently working to develop new, entertaining games which we hope will be a fun diversion during this uncertain time.

Sports betting site FanDuel offered its first ever political bets for the most recent Democratic candidate debate. A few of the posted debate bets were which candidate, Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden, would say "coronavirus" more often, and whether or not "Iraq" would be mentioned. It is not currently legal to bet on the outcome of political elections in the United States, only prop bets such as these are allowed.

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Other popular wagers according to FanDuel during this coronavirus sports stoppage were special contests for the reality TV show Survivor, and what Tom Brady's next team will be. The former New England Patriots quarterback has now .

Jason Ader, a well-known gambling industry expert and CEO of SpringOwl Asset Management, says this could also be an interesting period for a new form of sports betting known as virtual sports.

"The virtual sports industry is a real industry we are seeing growth in," Ader told MarketWatch. "People are betting on virtual sports. It's computer playing against the computer."

Popular games to bet on are League of legends, World of Warcraft, and Fifa.

"I suspect this could be a moment for Esports," Ader continues. "If it isn't, it will never be."

No gaming companies contacted for this story would disclose specifics as to how much money has been wagered on Esports or virtual sports in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, but Ader claims that Esports betting is up 19% year over year.

Las Vegas, the sports betting capital of the U.S., has been devastated by the effects of the coronavirus shutdown. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak ordered a 30-day freeze on non-essential business, including gambling, for his state. .

The governor's directive impacts the casino resorts, sportsbooks, and convenience store slot machines. Last week, the famous Las Vegas Strip will be shut down for the first time since the JFK assassination in 1963.

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