While many Americans were already fearing the worst in regards to the quickly spreading coronavirus, no one could have seen this coming. In about a 24-hour span, COVID-19 has basically forced the entire sports world to shut down.
It all started when the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz were nearly set to begin their game on Wednesday night. However, just prior to the opening tip, team doctors informed the referees and coaching staff that a player tested positive for the disease.
Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who was not actually at OKC’s arena at the time, proved to be carrying the virus. With this new information, NBA officials determined that it was too much of a risk to carry on with the game.
This was the first domino of many to fall in what became a wild Thursday in the sports world.
The NBA decided to suspend its current season, while conferences in college basketball started canceling their postseason tournaments.
Then later in the day, the NCAA chose to cancel both the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments. Instead of delaying March Madness like the NBA plans to do with the remainder of its season, the NCAA ended its year without crowning a champion.
This shocking news, along with plenty of other sports leagues suspending play, will drastically affect both sports lovers and the entire West Virginia sports betting market.
Just as the Mountain State started hitting its stride, WV sportsbooks will now face a very difficult stretch where minimal sports will take place.
Let’s examine all of the ramifications of COVID-19 on the sports world and its impact on sports wagering within the state.
NBA shuts league down
The NBA was the first major sports league in America to start making drastic moves because of the spread of this disease.
Prior to learning about Gobert testing positive, the Golden State Warriors planned on playing its Thursday night matchup against the Nets with no fans in attendance. Several other NCAA conference tournaments were going to follow suit with this idea but never got a chance to do so.
Once Gobert was deemed ill, everything changed.
Besides not allowing that game to take place, ESPN’s second game of the evening was canceled as well. It became clear that one of the refs assigned for the New Orleans and Sacramento game had done a Jazz game (with Gobert in attendance) earlier in the week.
To make things even worse for Gobert, a video circulated showing the French center jokingly touching several media members’ microphones at the beginning of the week. He was obviously unaware that he was sick at the time.
Gobert apologized for his “careless” actions through Instagram. He said:
“I hope my story serves as a warning and causes everyone to take this seriously. I will do whatever I can to support using my experience as a way to educate others and prevent the spread of this virus.”
It has since come out that his teammate, Donovan Mitchell, has also tested positive for COVID-19.
When the NBA and commissioner Adam Silver decided to suspend all action, it had a major effect on many other sports leagues across the country. Silver told TNT on Thursday that the league will take at least a 30-day hiatus.
March Madness canceled
Of course, everyone’s safety takes precedence, but the biggest news of the day was that the college basketball season was over. Unfortunately, there will be no March Madness in 2020.
After several major conferences including the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12 and ACC canceled their postseason tournaments early in the day, the Big East Conference started its noon-slated game.
Creighton and St. John’s tipped off in their quarterfinal matchup in what was a confusing start to a very hectic day. The game was eventually canceled at halftime when conference commissioner Val Ackerman finally took action. It was reported that she didn’t find out about the other cancellations until after she concluded a meeting that started at 10 a.m.
Ackerman and the league made the decision to stop the game at halftime, as opposed to removing the players in a “dramatic” fashion.
The final straw for the NCAA might have been shortly after when multiple schools announced they won’t be participating in upcoming athletics. Both Duke and Kansas pulled their programs out of sports indefinitely early Thursday afternoon.
A few hours later, NCAA President Mark Emmert yanked the plug on both the men’s and women’s March Madness tournaments, along with all other remaining winter and spring collegiate championships.
The following are the college sports canceled moving forward:
- Ice hockey
- Indoor track and field
- Swimming and diving
- Beach volleyball
- Outdoor track and field
- Men’s volleyball
- Women’s water polo
Golf and other sports
Many other professional sports leagues in the US also adjusted their playing schedules based on the spread of the coronavirus.
The PGA Tour, which allowed players and fans to attend the opening round of The Players Championship Thursday, canceled the rest of the tournament along with future tournaments.
Golf will not host any other events until at least the Masters. The sport’s most prestigious event is scheduled to begin on April 9.
The NHL suspended its play with less than a month remaining in its regular season. The league hopes to resume games in the future but didn’t provide any sort of timetable.
Major League Baseball is another league that is trying to get out in front of this pandemic. It suspended current spring training games and delayed Opening Day by at least two weeks.
The 2020 season was supposed to begin on March 26.
Major League Soccer also took action. The MLS suspended all games for 30 days.
One of the newest American leagues, the XFL, suspended play as well. The start-up football league suspended the rest of its 2020 regular season but noted it’s “committed” to returning next year.
Additional sports like professional tennis and NASCAR also postponed their seasons.
Impact on WV sportsbooks
The impact all of these suspensions and postponements will have on WV sportsbooks won’t be fully understood for quite some time. Since all of these precautions regarding the coronavirus have happened so quickly, it’s difficult to tell when a regular sports schedule will resume.
Of course, the longer leagues don’t play, the more sportsbooks will negatively feel the financial effects.
Regardless of all the other sports, losing the NCAA Tournament is a major blow to books and bettors alike. With many states featuring online sports betting apps for the first time, this year’s March Madness was in a position to set some sports gambling records.
This pause is especially tough for WV because its online sports betting market has had a bumpy road and was finally finding some momentum.
Hopefully, for everyone’s sake, the spread of the coronavirus is soon contained and life with sports can start once again.