It has been already a month since the massive worldwide coronavirus outbreak has started. Most countries are in a lockdown, many businesses are fighting for survival and a huge number of workers are being laid off as a result. The crisis has terrible implications, personally for those infected by the virus and their close ones and economically for them and everyone else.
One of the many consequences of the current situation is that the vast majority of sports leagues were halted with no clarity about when they are going to resume. That also means there is almost nothing to bet on. Obviously, there are infinitely more pressing issues than this one. And yet, since this is a betting blog I thought I could spare some thoughts on what does the current pandemic mean for the average bettor and what are the betting possibilities in the times of the coronavirus.
Therefore, today I will go through my checklist of the most important tasks for every bettor to take care of during the coronavirus crisis.
Personal and financial safety
Regardless of whether you are walking out in a public space or dealing with your bookmaker/broker, rule number one is safety first.
For most people that means at least a couple of things. Adhering to all precautionary measures outlined by the health authorities as far as regular life activities are concerned is certainly the most important one. Then comes the financial aspect. Financial markets took a hard hit by the coronavirus crisis. Its economic impact is likely to be devastating for a number of industries. This spells trouble for most people’s savings as well, so if you have a stock portfolio it makes sense to relocate to more conservative sectors or ones that are less sensitive to the societal changes at hand. I personally moved most of my investment funds into technological stocks. These should (hopefully) be less impacted by the societal standstill we are going through.
This of course does not apply to betting companies, which are in muddy watters. I was a bit disappointed that I can’t make much from my remaining BetBurger subscription, but losing a month’s worth of subscription seems agreeable compared to having to pay the wages of several thousand employees, plus all other business expenses, with no income to make up for it. Which leads me to…
Betting funds safety
For us as bettors, that additionally means to make sure all our betting funds are in a safe place. Among the sectors most hardly hit by the coronavirus outbreak is the betting industry. With very few sports taking place and almost nothing to bet on, it is clear that the revenue of betting companies has taken a large hit. Betting shops and brick-and-mortar casinos also had to close for an unclear period of time, increasing the financial pressure further. Bookmakers that have taken on a lot of leverage during the economic boom will have to fight for their survival. You can see a proof of this in the price development of the major betting stocks. You can see the status as of 18.3.2020 in the following Tweet:
While the prices have recovered a bit since then, the fundamentals remain the same. The betting industry is overly exposed to the coronavirus crisis. So, if you have a balance in a bookmaker/broker, you have to make sure that your counterparty is financially viable.
Is my bookmaker/broker safe
It is hard to evaluate how safe your bookmaker/broker is in the current times. Usually we rely on our past experience with the brand in question. However, when we are facing a one-off event like that, it is questionable how much is that worth. Nevertheless, in such times reputable companies will still strive to protect their brand equity, even at the price of financial losses.
In fact, as far as safety of funds is concerned, the picture does not seem as grim as one could imagine. After the sudden stop of sports of any kind, many concerned bettors rushed to their bookmaker to withdraw their full balance. Judging by comments from the SBR forum the vast majority of unregulated offshore bookmakers have processed customers’ withdrawal requests more or less as usual. One could argue the worst is yet to come – and yet so far the bookmaker industry seems to be acting fair and weathering the storm pretty good.
With some exceptions
Of course, there were some notable exceptions. For one, in the peak of the coronavirus PremiumTradings were slow to process customer withdrawals, as can be seen in this thread. I was myself one of those who were struggling to get their money out of PreimumTradings. In my quest of getting my money back, I was supported to a various degree by SBR, Arbusers, Jimmy Justice, whom I use the opportunity to say thanks. Finally, and after significant delay and a huge withdrawal fee, I got my money. However, I have to say I am less than satisfied by how PremiumTradings handled this whole matter.
I have worked with PremiumTradings for a long time without any issues, depositing and betting with significant amounts on their platform, as well as promoting them in this blog. My personal impression is that their conditions and customer service have gotten worse lately. Therefore I have decided to split ways with them, at least until they regain my thrust. Until then there are enough other betting brokers with the same or better offering, where I can move (and have moved) my action. A notable example is Sportmarket, who in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak processed my full balance withdrawal on the same day, free of charge. So, at this point, the only broker I use is Sportmarket. I can only recommend to readers of my blog to follow my steps in that regard.
Sport is dead, but betting is not
Did I say that sport is dead? Well, it is certainly not gone for good and will return soon. However, the exact timeline is quite blurry at this point. The Euro 2020 has been postponed for next year, as well as the Olympic games, which were scheduled to take place in Tokyo this summer. The most likely solution currently is that football restarts during the coming months with games in front of empty seats to finish the season. Other sports will probably proceed in a similar fashion.
However, the good news is there are still quite a few events to bet on. I am not talking about the Belarussian Premier League, Russian Table Tennis or the Tadjikistani elite football league (though you can try your luck there too if you like), I am talking of course about eSports
eSports is not impressed by the coronavirus
As of now most eSports are running as scheduled. Even though the coronavirus outbreak still caused some disruption for eSports as well, these managed to get back to track. Clearly, you need less resources, space and men to run an esports event, but most importantly, you can do it all remote. Therefore, currently eSports offer by far the most and most diverse betting opportunities for all punters. To get a feeling for the current share of eSports on the betting markets, just have a look at Pinnacle’s homepage:
Among the short-term, as well as outright markets, eSports holds more than 80% share of all betting markets. This is currently about the only thing you can place a bet on.
League of Legends
Of course, I will not miss the opportunity to say a few words about my favourite eSport, League of Legends. As early as January, the COVID19 has already forced the Chinese league LPL to postpone all games indefinitely, with LCK, LEC and LCS to follow suit in a few months. However, the “League lockdown” soon came to an end with games moving to a remote connection. It was business as usual, only the games were being played with no fans present. Some issues with connection speed occured every now and then. Even though the organisers do their best to provide the best possible conditions for a smooth game, even small glitches in the Internet connection can decide games. The professional LoL players have extremely fast reaction times and a small increase in ping can have overreaching consequences.
I guess this would make the case for increased randomness in games and perhaps an edge in backing the outsider. Due to lack of odds data I cannot check if such a thesis can have some merit.
Riot looking the other way
The big issue with League the last weeks was that Riot seem to have neglected the support for the game in many ways. This is probably due to the launch of their long anticipated new FPS Valorant. Among other things, that translates to League match history not working since 3 weeks. Therefore, my favourite League website, the Oracle’s Elixir, hasn’t uploaded new match data since the 24th of March. Since this is the main source of input data for my models, my numbers are getting more outdated every week. I am now at a point where I only bet a few derivative markets but have given up on moneyline betting altogether until this issue is fixed.
By the way, due to the game issues, Pinnacle has also reduced the number of offered markets and they are also opening those much later than before. It’s a sad state of affairs.
eSports is a tricky business
This really comes to show you the one risk, which is really specific to eSports betting. Since we are not talking traditional sports, you don’t know how long the whole thing will stick around. If tomorrow the game owner decides they don’t give a damn about the game anymore, I can take my model, which I spent months developing, and just throw it in the trash. At least, I would have had the benefit of having learned something in the process. Plus, even in traditional sports markets evolve all the time. So if you don’t keep reinventing yourself you wouldn’t have much success there either. For now, I still hope Riot hasn’t given up on League altogether and will fix this mess at some point.
So what do I bet on during the age of the coronavirus?
Well, it’s still eSports obviously, and League of Legends in particular. Even with the issues Riot is causing, the derivative markets still offer (what are in my opinion) quite some opportunities. My favourite markets are the game length markets. I am gathering ideas for some other props as well, by following League threads on some betting forums. The results so far are promising. Nothing worth sharing on a regular basis though. The limits (at least in Pinnacle, but I suspect also everywhere else) are too low to accommodate any significant interest.
Why betting at all?
Clearly, you don’t have to force yourself to bet on something you don’t understand, just because it is the only option. However, in case this isn’t just an outlet of a gambling addiction (in which case there are a couple of useful links for you at the bottom of this page) it doesn’t hurt to give the eSports markets a try, for a couple of reasons.
While we might be among the few, who try to make money out of the betting markets, we shouldn’t forget that they exist first and foremost for entertainment. There is nothing wrong with that and one shouldn’t be snobbish about guys who place a bet just to entertain themselves. If people did not bet for fun, nobody would ever make money on the betting markets, as there would be no betting markets at all.
Furthermore, having means to entertain yourself in the current situation is more useful from a psychological perspective than ever before. Right now I’d rather talk about betting than about the coronavirus. Placing a few small bets here and there to increase the enjoyment of watching a game is nothing to be frowned upon. By the way, the renowned Joseph Buchdahl builds an excellent argument in defence of this view in his book “Squares and Sharps, Suckers and Sharks: The Science, Psychology & Philosophy of Gambling: The Science, Psychology & Philosophy of Gambling” and I happen to share his viewpoint fully.
It’s good for bookies
I am sure some of you laughed when you read this one. It is good for the bookies? Who cares about the bookies? Well, I just said there would be no betting markets without people betting just for fun, but there also would be none without bookmakers. They are part of the ecosystem and are instrumental for us in making some money out of soft markets in good times. Why not support them with a few bucks in the bad times so they can provide us this service in the future? Even though I have had some heated exchanges with some bookmakers throughout the years, I consider myself no enemy of theirs and keep fingers crossed for them to survive the current crisis just fine.
What else is there to do
A lot has been said about the opportunity a quarantine gives you to sit back, relax, and use the time to reflect on what you are doing with your life. Same applies to betting. Every now and then one has to take a break from current activities and evaluate them from a more general perspective.
Furthermore, having less things to bet on gives you a chance to focus on developing tools to improve your betting when sports are back. There is indeed no better time to pick a sport of your choice, find some historical data, crunch some numbers and build a basic betting model. The data is out there for the taking. You can find a variety of free sources on my Recommended page. Just try it out and you might find out you actually enjoy it.
Spend time with friends and family
Most importantly, the current coronavirus crisis gives us all the opportunity to relieve the stress from our daily lives and get in touch with the people we so often don’t find time for. It’s always a good idea to give a call to your parents or grandparents, as COVID19 or no, we can’t know how long they will be around. I hope even after the current situation has improved, we all will have drawn a lesson in that regard. Even though we people have notoriously short memory for such events, some hope remains.
Finally, Easter is coming and a shutdown does not mean we cannot celebrate. So, enjoy your holiday, thanks for reading and till the next time!