When All Bets Are Off, Significant Consequences Follow

With no sports to bet on, stilled racetracks and closed poker rooms, it’s reasonable to wonder how the action hounds are spending their time.

Well, fret not.

Wherever there’s a whiff of competition, there will be those with an opinion and cash to back it up.

The coronavirus may have forced the NBA, NHL and NCAA may close shop, but the League of Legends is still going strong. To get a sense of whether or not that sort of thing can attract wagering cash, just stop by DraftKings where the daily fantasy sports website’s lobby was offering dozens of LOL contests with cash buy-ins ranging from 10 cents to $5,300 with potential contestant fields as large as 7,000-plus entries.

For those not so familiar with the world of online gaming, League of Legends is an internet fantasy battle game and — believe it or not — on DraftKings one can put money on his or her own team of the players behind those avatars.

If your team scores high enough, you can win money — just like in fantasy football or baseball or golf.

Some of the players one can select in League of Legends are Doinb, mingjing and GimGoom.

And if that has your traditional sports mindset reeling, consider that just one of those many LOL contests being offered on DraftKings (this one with a buy-in of $10) was well on its way to filling a field of about 4,700 entries several hours before the contest was set to begin in the wee hours of March 17.

It all may sound whacky, but a competition that plays out in a virtual landscape appears to be largely unfazed by a pandemic.

However, the tiny exception of LOL daily fantasy merely serves as an ironic footnote to just one of the many dire consequences of coronavirus.

The gambling world, as are many other far more important aspects of modern life, is being upended by the disease. In some instances — the Las Vegas economy, for example — the financial fallout is profound.

As the coronavirus picks up steam, there are more questions than answers.

Maryland horse racing made a go of it trying to run at an empty Laurel Park for a couple of days before Gov. Larry Hogan shut down the place along with OTBs on March 15.

Tracks elsewhere, if they were running at all, had been running without fans.

The Kentucky Derby is being postponed from May 2 to Sept. 5. If the normal Triple Crown schedule holds true, that would possibly move Baltimore’s Preakness Stakes to Sept. 19 instead of May 16. But who knows for sure.

Maryland’s six casinos also have been closed by Hogan, and many other states have done the same.

But no place in the gambling-sphere has been impacted like Las Vegas.

During the weekend of March 14-15, MGM Resorts International — with a slew of casinos and tens of thousands of hotel rooms on the famous Strip, including the Bellagio, the Mirage and the MGM Grand — temporarily closed its resorts. The Wynn company’s two resorts and the Cosmopolitan joined them.

The NFL cancelled its upcoming Las Vegas extravaganza in April that was to be the setting for the league’s annual draft of college players.

The World Series of Poker in Las Vegas runs from late May to mid-July at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. So far, the biggest event on the poker calendar has not been postponed or canceled, but picture a room full of thousands of card players literally elbow-to-elbow for 10 hours or so a day.

Hard to imagine that happens.

Casino company revenues are being hammered and layoffs are happening at a breathtaking pace. And it doesn’t stop with the gambling halls. In Vegas, trouble on the Strip immediately impacts working people all over the valley.

Closer to home in Maryland, what happens in gaming also has serious ramifications.

As Cordish Companies principal Joe Weinberg has often said, the casino industry in Maryland pays nearly as much in state taxes as all other corporations in Maryland combined. Cordish Companies owns Live! Casino and Hotel in Hanover, Md. Add in the people who will be without work — the industry employs about 15,000 workers — and the associated businesses that will also lose revenue, and the bleak numbers add up quickly in Maryland.

So yeah, if a gambler looks hard enough, there are ways to get a wager in on something, even if it’s a League of Legends fantasy contest. And if you’re not a bettor, you may not care one way or another about any gambling issues.

However, the fact remains that in a world where suddenly almost all bets are off, there are significant consequences.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Jockey Club