Online Innovations in Sports Betting Shows Resilience In Face Of Pandemic

At one point during the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, sports were virtually brought to a halt worldwide. Leagues around the globe stopping playing. Major sporting events such as the NCAA basketball tournament and the Memorial Cup were canceled. The Tokyo Summer Olympic Games and Euro 2020 were postponed for a year.

Without sports, the sportsbooks such as the ones that are reviewed at were left to ponder how they would earn revenue with basically no way for bettors to get any action.

Not only did these online sports survive through the pandemic, in many instances they thrived. According to research conducted by, sports betting revenue worldwide in 2020 was an estimated $218.49 billion US dollars. That’s a new single-year record for wagering on sporting events. 

An innovative industry at the best of times, online sports betting sites proved in 2020 that they can be equally innovative in the worst of times. 

Creating Action Where There Is None

With the NBA and NHL seasons shut down, along with almost every soccer league across the planet and the opening of the MLB season delayed, there was a sporting vacuum in existence worldwide. Sports betting sites found themselves scouring the globe in search of any type of sporting event upon which they could generate odds and create action. And they succeeded.

Sports such as Russian table tennis and Belorussian and Nicaraguan soccer helped to fill the void. Bettors especially embraced Russian table tennis with its 24/7 competition and ability to generate wild, multi-leg parlay cards. 

Bettors were willing to wager on events outside their normal realm of markets in order to continue to get action. Forty-one percent of respondents to a poll conducted by admitted that they’d bet on COVID-19 numbers and political elections. The weather (39 percent), current events (35 percent), reality TV (30 percent) and even competitive eating (22 percent) proved popular with bettors desperately seeking out a wagering opportunity. 

All combined, it proved capable of giving players starved for action an outlet and also helped bridge the void for sportsbooks until the major sports returned to their playing surfaces.

A Virtual Solution

Already a blossoming entity, the world of eSports gained an even stronger foothold with bettors and betting sites during the early days of the pandemic. While many major eSports competitions were being conducted in arenas with spectators in attendance, the ability for competitions in such games as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, Dota 2, Overwatch, Rainbow Six, and Call of Duty to take their entire events online proved a huge advantage when it came to maximizing their betting market. There were 28 percent of all bettors who acknowledged wagering on eSports during the 2020 calendar year.

The so-called mainstream sports also took notice of the advantage of taking their games into the virtual world. The NBA, NFL and NBA all conducted online tournaments with actual players competing against each other in video game action.

Autosports such as NASCAR and Formula One took matters a step further. NASCAR held online races to replace those events postponed by COVID-19, with the drivers all competing against each other as virtual versions of themselves. F1 contested virtual races with both current drivers and driving legends participating. The general public were able to compete in qualifying events for the chance to race virtually against some of their driving heroes. 

American Excellence

The burgeoning United States market was also a significant driver in the positive outcome for sports betting sites during 2020. There were 20 U.S. states that had moved to legalize sports betting by the end of 2020, up from 14 in 2019. 

Newcomers to the game such as Tennessee, Colorado, and Illinois were all handling $100 million per month in wagers by the end of the year. More than $21.5 billion was wagered nationwide in the USA in 2020.

Beginning with August, each month of the year saw a new record set in terms of the monthly wagering handle in the USA. In each of the last three months, the total handle wagered exceeded $3 billion. A record $3.788 billion was bet across the United States in December of 2020.