Sportsbooks turn to Turkey, Russia for offerings

  • Oversees editorial direction for sports betting at ESPN
  • Joined ESPN in 2005

In the wake of the postponement and cancellation of mainstream sports across the nation, U.S. sportsbooks have been forced to expand into different betting markets and take risks with sports and events not necessarily popular with the American sports fan — sports that might shut down at any minute.

Although all casinos in Nevada and many other states are closed, the growth of mobile betting has allowed some books to stay open and take action. Caesars Sportsbook, which is open for mobile betting in Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, is taking action on Turkish soccer, where you can bet on Kayserispor (+690) vs. Fenerbahce (-340) or a draw (+465).

At William Hill, the expanded list of offerings includes Argentina’s Superliga, Gibraltar’s Premier Division soccer and Russia’s National Football League. William Hill CEO Joe Asher told the Sports Business Journal: “It doesn’t compare with what people want to bet on. But certainly some people are betting on that. We’re just trying to do the best we can with the cards we’ve been dealt. People are clearly still interested in betting.”

On Tuesday, Westgate Superbook posted odds on the women’s regional All Pro Tour and the Cactus Tour, a mini tour for women golfers who play outside the LPGA Tour and the second-tier Symetra Tour. Jeff Sherman, Westgate vice president of risk management and one of the lead golf oddsmakers said: “We were scouring the globe for anything that could offer our guests some entertainment at this difficult time.” Right after the Paragon Casino Championship on the All Pro Tour went up, it was canceled.

And that’s been a big obstacle facing oddsmakers — once approval from regulators is received, the sport gets postponed or canceled. One oddsmaker said it had lower levels of English soccer and German Bundesliga second level approved and ready to go before the leagues shut down.

Sports currently awaiting regulatory approval for multiple casinos in New Jersey are the National Rugby League in Australia, Russian hockey’s KHL, Turkey Super Lig basketball, chess, snooker and various esports contests.

Even sports that are seen as more traditional, such as UFC, saw a large increase in handle last weekend, up an estimated 50% compared with previous UFC cards with similar star power. More fights and markets were offered in what will likely be the last UFC fight for weeks.

Daily fantasy sites are scrambling to find live sports to offer. FanDuel added UFC for the first time last Friday for Saturday’s fights and then added a free-to-play game on the Democratic presidential debate Sunday night. DraftKings greatly increased its prize pool for UFC contests and is featuring the Friday soccer game between Kayserispor and Fenerbahce in Turkey.

The NFL’s free agency and upcoming draft have helped the betting landscape with offerings that include Tom Brady’s next team, how many QBs will be taken in the first round and who will draft Tua Tagovailoa. The NFL futures market remains open with odds to win the division, conference and Super Bowl all being offered. Circa Sports put up win totals last week, before free agency started and long before the NFL draft.

ESPN’s Mackenzie Kraemer contributed to this report.

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