The global outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus) has left sports fans and industry gamblers without much to do during a month that is typically one of the busiest on the calendar.
More important, however, are the casino jobs that have been lost and the upstate New York economies negatively affected by a pandemic that right now shows no end in sight.
With it comes a severe sense of uncertainty and anxiety for thousands across the state.
Casino closures widespread, workers left without jobs
The New York Daily News reported Wednesday that around 20,000 workers in New York’s hotel and casino industries have lost their jobs since the COVID-19 outbreak. An unnamed source described the breakdown as 6,000 casino employees and 14,000 hotel employees.
Casinos were ordered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to close Monday night, joining gyms and movie theatres and the limitation of bars and restaurants to takeout and delivery services.
Similar prohibitions have been put in place across the nation, also closing New Jersey casinos to East Coast gamblers.
Meanwhile, some casinos had already decided to close before Cuomo’s order, including New York’s largest casino, Resorts World Catskills.
NYup.com reported Monday, prior to the governor’s announcement, that Resorts World Catskills had decided to shutter for at least two weeks, a decision motivated by a spread of COVID-19 that has left New York with more than 2,300 confirmed cases and 12 deaths by Wednesday evening.
Other casinos, like Rivers Casino Resort in Schenectady, Turning Stone Casino Resort and other, Oneida Indiana Nation casinos pre-empted Cuomo’s measure by announcing they would close at the start of the work week.
“After careful deliberation with New York State officials and our partners at the New York Hotel Trades Council, we have decided to — for the health and safety of our workforce, patrons and community — temporarily close Resorts World Casino New York City and Resorts World Catskills,” a Resorts World spokesman told area media outlets.
Like industries across the globe, it is so far unclear when the gambling world will be able to return to normal operations. It is a situation complicated by the inherent nature of the casino business: large groups of people packed into common areas, playing close together.
It is, therefore, nearly impossible to practice the musts of social distancing during a COVID-19 level outbreak, including six-foot radiuses of personal space.
Uncertainty reigns in sports gambling industry
New York basketball fans were left digesting a shocking piece of news this week: Kevin Durant and multiple Brooklyn Nets teammates have tested positive for COVID-19.
News exploded Tuesday revealing that Durant was one of four Nets confirmed to have the virus. The players are isolated and being cared for by team physicians, the team said.
A statement from the Nets noted that one player is exhibiting symptoms; the name of that player has not been revealed.
“The organization is currently notifying anyone who has had known contact with the players, including recent opponents, and is working closely with state and local health authorities on reporting,” the team posted on Twitter.
While Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was the first NBA player to test positive for COVID-19 – he was quickly followed by teammate Donovan Mitchell – the confirmed positive testing of Durant and his teammates brings the crisis crashing home for New Yorkers.
And it further solidifies what is likely to be a prolonged stretch without sports gambling in a state that just last year opened sportsbooks at seven upstate casinos. Combined with the closure of casinos in New Jersey, New York sports bettors are left without any of the options so often relied upon.
COVID-19 likely shuts book on mobile wagering talks
Even if sports return before casinos, however unlikely, New Yorkers will still be left without sports betting since the state has yet to legalize mobile wagering.
And after weeks of speculation about whether New York lawmakers would pass legislation allowing mobile wagering, it appears the virus has put an end to those hopes.
While the state is expected to lose millions in tax revenue because of the virus, an area that in the future could be boosted by mobile wagering, the pandemic has “stymied” budget debate in the state, according to the Wall Street Journal.
That means controversial issues like mobile wagering are unlikely to get a complete discussion before passage of the final budget.
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr., a leading supporter of mobile wagering, told Legal Sports Report this week: “When given the opportunity, I’ll inquire about mobile sports betting.” He acknowledged the difficulties in lobbying for the legalization in the midst of a crisis like the COVID-19 outbreak.