US Bettors May Have to Revert to Alternative Sports as COVID-19 Cancellations Creep Up

  • The NBA, NHL, and NFL have all postponed games due to rising virus cases across the US
  • Leagues have introduced more extensive safety protocols to avoid further postponements
  • The NHL is taking its annual break two days early, with no games to take place until Monday
  • Sportsbooks will look to prioritize other sports betting markets amid these cancellations
Coronavirus sign in empty stadium
US bettors might need to look towards alternative sports for wagering as major sports leagues continue to postpone games. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Widespread postponements

US bettors might have to turn back to alternative sports for their wagers as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reap havoc on major league sports. The rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the US has led to significant disruption for sporting fixtures over the holiday season.

the NHL has decided on a leaguewide shutdown from Wednesday

On Sunday, the NBA announced the postponement of five games scheduled to take place this week. Similarly, the NFL had to postpone three games over the weekend, while the NHL has decided on a leaguewide shutdown from Wednesday. Sporting organizations in other countries are also dealing with similar issues, including the English Premier League which has faced the cancellation of a number of games in recent weeks.

Bettors have not had to deal with sporting event postponements such as these since the beginning of the pandemic in spring 2020. As all major league sports during that time period could not go ahead, bettors often had to turn to more obscure sports like table tennis and drone racing.

Attempts to minimize case numbers

Due to the large number of athletes and staff involved, team sports have naturally faced issues when COVID-19 infection rates reach high levels. The virus can quickly spread within groups, leaving organizations scrambling to find enough players to field a team. As a result, leagues have once again introduced stricter COVID-19 safety protocols in an attempt to minimize the spread.

a more targeted testing plan

The NFL has updated its policy a couple of times over the past week. The new measures include creating a more targeted testing plan, an increased focus on teams meeting virtually, as well as allowing high-risk players to opt-out for the remainder of the season.

The NHL has already decided that it will have its annual holiday break two days earlier than usual. This means that the five games that were to take place on Thursday will no longer go ahead. As a result, 49 NHL games have suffered postponements because of the pandemic this season. League officials expect teams to return to practice on Sunday after undergoing testing, with games to resume from Monday.

Sportsbooks ready to adapt

Much like they did at the beginning of the pandemic, sportsbooks will have to adjust their focus towards alternative sports betting markets if these cancellations continue, as suggested by FanDuel spokesman Chris Jones.

Jones spoke with Bloomberg regarding the widespread cancellations of popular sporting events this week. He said: “We’ll adjust accordingly and with two years’ experience dealing with the pandemic, we’ll elevate events still occurring.” Some of the bigger sports that will likely get more attention from bettors include tennis and horse racing.

It is still unclear as to just how severe the Omicron variant is compared to other COVID-19 variants. However, scientists are encouraging people to vaccinate themselves in order to get some protection against severe illness and death from the virus. For now, it is unclear how much more disruption lies ahead for sports.