All Bets Aren’t Off, Despite the Quarantine
With major U.S. sports postponed or canceled, it feels like there’s nothing left to bet on. Quite the contrary. Sportsbooks are featuring foreign sports to keep the bets coming in. Belarusian soccer, anyone?
If you think the coronavirus has shut down betting, think again.
U.S. sports may be sidelined for now, but sportsbooks are still live, with oddball wager opportunities like Belarusian soccer and Ukrainian table tennis.
Foreign sports in all their weird varieties have been carrying the load since the virus became widespread. Just a few weeks ago, 10-plus countries were still holding league soccer games. Now the list is down to two.
Australian A-League soccer is still going on, but cautiously. With the season almost finished, the leagues aim to finish the season and knockout stage with limited fan attendance. The remaining regular season fixtures will run through mid-April, to be followed by a couple more weeks of playoff football. These matches will be available to stream on ESPN+.
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Then there’s the aforementioned Belarusian Premier League (BPL). Belarus has fewer than 100 Covid-19 cases and zero deaths, and just this past weekend, a match drew more than 3,000 fans. The BPL is not just going strong, it’s booming. It’s the most active league in the world right now, and 10 different countries are vying to broadcast its games.
Clearly, this league will be business as usual at least for now. BPL games are available at U.S. sportsbooks, so it’s time to learn about the players so you can put in some bets.
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Another sport that hasn’t broken its stride is table tennis. The Setka Cup in Ukraine is still operating at a normal pace, with anywhere from 15 to 50 matches a day, all available to bet on most sportsbooks.
With real sports leagues on the bench, let’s look at some of the more obscure betting options that have become available during the quarantine:
- Until recently, odds on Tom Brady’s free-agent decision were very popular until he decided to take his talents to Tampa Bay. There were odds set for just about every team that’s looked in Brady’s direction since last season. The Buccaneers, for the record, were odds-on favorites, and as it turned out, Brady wanted to go nowhere else.
- One very popular option was, briefly, the weather (!), with one sportsbook offering over/under lines on daily high temps in major American cities.
- Talk about a stretch. Last month, ESPN2 celebrated “National Puppy Day” like it was the Super Bowl, with six straight hours of tail-wagging programming, all in prime time.
- S. sportsbooks are taking action on Turkish soccer, Argentina’s Superliga, Gibraltar’s Premier Division soccer, Russia’s National Football League, and the Nicaragua Premier Division, along with NFL, MLB and NCAAF futures.
- Though betting on politics isn’t legal everywhere in the U.S., some major sportsbooks are pushing for permission to offer these bets. According to the Miami Herald, one book posted over/under numbers on the words and phrases most used by President Trump in his daily coronavirus briefings. (The highest number is 24.5, the number of times the words “fantastic,” “incredible,” “amazing” and “tremendous” will be said as a group. Separately, oddsmakers think “fantastic” is the most oft-used term, with a solo over/under of 8.5).
- Finally, here’s a prop bet that some are hinting at, and it’s a welcome one: Which major sports league will return to action first? This bet isn’t offered anywhere yet, but look for some books to try and capitalize on the prop.