If you have to bet on ‘Tiger King,’ you have a gambling problem By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports April 4, 2020 at 5:00 am The expansion of regulated sports betting in the U.S. over the past two years was considered a knife through the heart of the multi-billion-dollar illegal sports betting market. But the closure of the nation’s casino industry in an effort to slow the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has given the illegal offshore betting markets new life. Closed casinos also led to silenced retail sportsbooks. Professional sports worldwide have shut down, including the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, and the European soccer leagues. The NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament – one of the most lucrative sports betting events annually – was canceled. The PGA Tour is on hiatus, Wimbledon was put off, and the Kentucky Derby was postponed until September. Sportsbook operator William Hill U.S. has tried to fill the void through its mobile and online sportsbooks, offering odds on Russian table tennis, Belarusian hockey, and Japanese Sumo wrestling. Let’s just say the events are not moving the needle. “We do it just to have a way to keep in touch with our customers and give them a distraction from the doom and gloom on television non-stop these days,” said William U.S. CEO Joe Asher. “We lose money by offering it but we’re just trying to lighten the mood.” Shutterstock Nevada’s Gaming Control Board reapproved wagering on esports, prompting William Hill and Las Vegas-based Circa Sports to post lines on a Counter-Strike tournament. In the last few weeks, off-shore sportsbooks – which violate federal law by offering real money gambling access to U.S. players – have tried to entice gamblers with odds on the weather and politics. One illegal site offered odds on whether or not Joe Exotic, the focus of the Netflix documentary series “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness,” would receive a presidential pardon. Most major media outlets were smart enough to ignore press releases from different illegal sites. The lesson? Don’t trade credibility for click-bait. Sports betting is now legal in 16 states. Another four states and Washington D.C. are expected to launch the activity sometime this year. Despite closures to its casinos, Colorado may launch mobile sports betting on May 1. The state of Washington legalized sports betting at its tribal casinos last month, but it’s unclear if sportsbooks will open this year. More than 20 other states had active sports betting legislation under consideration, that is until the pandemic ended legislative sessions and curtailed referendum activities. Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May 2018, Americans have legally wagered more than $19 billion on sports, according to the American Gaming Association. The surge in the offshore market prompted AGA CEO Bill Miller to remind U.S. sports bettors on Friday via Twitter of the dangers when wagering with illegal operators. “Without traditional sports, illegal, offshore books are increasingly offering odds on everything from politics to the weather,” Miller tweeted. “These bets are not legal in the U.S., nor do these sites guarantee payouts or fair odds. If you are wagering, do so with a regulated U.S. operator.” I’ll take it a step further. If you feel the need to bet on “Tiger King,” you’re not a savvy gambler. You have a gambling problem. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.