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Can Pennsylvania’s Emerging Sports Betting Market Hold On? 13,2020–A few short months ago, Philadelphia - along with the whole state of Pennsylvania  - was beginning to see the benefits of the sports betting boom that was made possible by the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in 2018. The state wasn't making headway as fast as New Jersey did, but the industry in the region was still approaching the point where it had started to make millions of dollars in tax revenue and was likely to make millions more in the future. New companies were opening up. Existing venues were spending money on adapting themselves to facilitate the new trade. Now, as suddenly as it appeared, sports betting is dead in the water. 

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That isn’t the fault of any of the individual companies, of course. Nor is it the fault of a change in the law, or a change in the way the law is interpreted. . March Madness should have been a highlight of the year both for the sports-betting public, and the companies that would have processed those bets. Instead, it didn’t happen at all - and millions of dollars that were spent on promoting both the event and the availability of betting on it have been wasted. 

The trend isn't a uniquely Pennsylvanian one or even a uniquely American one. You could almost open up a new betting market on which of the world's largest sports betting companies are the most or least likely to survive this crisis if such a thing were legal. No territory in the world is safe, but with the market in America being such a recent one, some of the companies that are new to it are bound to be feeling the cost of the current scenario far more than their European or Asian counterparts, who have had more experience and more time to generate cash to survive a downturn in the market. That's not the only advantage they have over the American companies either. 


Elsewhere in the world, many of the companies that offer sports betting to their customers also offer other forms of gambling. They often host online slots or virtual casinos like Kong Casino. Rather than temporarily closing down, they're simply inviting their regular bettors to come and play online slots or chance their hand on a digital roulette wheel instead. For a lot of American companies, this isn't possible. Online slots aren't legal in every state, and nor do they have any immediate prospect of becoming legal in many of the states that don't permit them. European companies can make up for lost sports betting revenue with an increase in online slots revenue. American companies don't have that option, and so their backs are already against the wall in a lot of cases. \

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If you aren’t naturally inclined to have sympathy toward gambling companies, you might not currently consider this to be a big deal - but there are obvious implications for the people who work inside the industry. In the United Kingdom - where gambling laws are far more relaxed than they are in the majority of the United States - bookmakers are already projecting hundreds of millions of pounds in losses as a result of the sport shutdown. When losses begin to pile up like that, it’s inevitable that some people will lose their jobs. With smaller and newer firms - like those who are offering sports betting facilities in the Pennsylvania area - numerous job losses could be the difference between a company staying open, and a company going to the wall. It sadly seems like an inevitability that not all of the companies who existed before the coronavirus shutdown started will still be there when it comes to an end. 

The few companies who have managed to keep their doors open or find sports to take bets on are seeing their options dwindle by the way. For a while, some European soccer leagues persisted, and darts and snooker remained viable options. Just as sports channels are struggling to come up with content to justify subscription costs or simply to fill schedules, sports betting companies are struggling to find anything to take bets or offer odds on. Even if it is possible to hold on to employees and keep companies running, at the moment it’s hard to find a way to maintain an income - and nobody can offer any clarity on when the situation might change. 

To make matters worse, some sportsbooks had already taken bets in advance for fixtures that were once planned but have now been canceled, for example, NCAA or NBA bets that were placed months ago. All such bets have to be refunded, so not only are companies having to try to find a way to carry on trading without an income, they have to hand back some of the income they'd already banked in the past. As the industry is a long way from being at the top of the queue when it comes to Government assistance, the majority of these losses are likely to be permanent and won't be refunded in the form of future grants or allocations of government spending. 

Everyone in Philadelphia, along with everyone else in the state, country, and world, is looking forward to life eventually returning to normal. For sports betting, though, the activity was so new that it never became 'normal' in the first place. What should have been a bonanza year for Pennsylvania in terms of sports betting income is now doomed never to fail, and if the multi-million dollar income that was expected to come as a result of sports betting had already been factored into regional budgets, that's yet another shortfall that will have to be addressed when normal day to day business resumes.