There’s always a risk of losing money when placing a wager on sports. It’s why the saying “never bet more than you’re willing to lose” is a common saying among people practicing responsible gambling.
But risking your life to place a sports bet legally should never be part of the equation.
Legal sports betting in Michigan officially launched at the MGM Grand Detroit casino on Wednesday afternoon, allowing anyone age 21 and over to place wagers in-person at the brick-and-mortar Moneyline Sports Lounge.
Placing wagers on sports “in-person” would normally only be an inconvenience, not a risk to one’s own health and safety.
But these are not normal times.
Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, named COVID-19, a global pandemic — a disease that spreads in multiple countries around the world at the same time.
“WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, according to The Hill. “We have therefore made the assessment that Covid-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”
The number of cases of coronavirus outside of China has increased 13-fold in the past two weeks, and the number of countries with cases has tripled. There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have died, WHO said.
“In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of COVID-19 cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” Tedros said.
Despite this warning, Michigan is the second state this week to open a brick-and-mortar sportsbook, becoming the 16th state to offer sports betting legally. Illinois began accepting bets in-person on Monday.
State regulators from around the country have rushed to have sportsbooks licensed and ready to accept bets on March Madness, which begins on Tuesday, March 17, with the tip-off the 2020 NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
March Madness is one of the most profitable times of the year for sportsbooks, and it’s betting handle is second only to the Super Bowl.
Michigan won’t allow its sportsbooks to accept wagers on the Internet until 2021. For Illinois, the law prohibits mobile bets for 18 months, with the countdown starting this past Monday.
Instead of prioritizing, or at least considering an amendment, to allow online and mobile sportsbooks operators to apply and receive a license early, state lawmakers are pushing ahead with in-person legislation.
Washington, where Governor Jay Inslee recently banned three counties from holding gatherings of more than 250 people, passed its casino-only sports betting bill last week even though 15 people in the state had died from the coronavirus prior to the Senate vote.
It’s not known whether Gov. Inslee will sign the in-person sportsbook legislation into law when it’s expected to arrive on his desk sometime in the spring.
The coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon, and the outbreak is expected to get worse before it gets better. The WHO has already confirmed it may be up to 18 months before a coronavirus vaccine is developed.
If state lawmakers want to take both the legalization of sports betting and the coronavirus pandemic seriously, then allowing sportsbooks to accept wagers over the Internet is not just the safest bet — it’s the only bet that can ensure public safety.