For Sports Books, Profit Loss Pales Next to Human Tragedy

13 September 2001
In the wake of terrorist attacks in the United States, a slew of sporting events around the globe have been canceled, sending online sports books reeling during a time when they normally make a great deal of their profit.

Many operators, though, admit that losing a week of possible revenue is a small price to pay considering the number of human lives lost in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Although many gaming operators have their central offices and headquarters in offshore locales such as Costa Rica and Antigua, many operators have ties to the United States or are themselves U.S. citizens.

IGN spoke to a handful of online sports book operators today, and all agreed that while sports books are indirectly affected by the attacks, it is hard for many of them to complain about the situation.

Sporting events all across the globe have been canceled, but one online sports book operator said it is a small price to pay.

"Is this going to hurt my business? Most definitely," one sports book operator said. "Do you like it? No. But I am awfully grateful that I am OK, but deeply saddened and upset with the great loss America has felt."

One of the harshest realities is where the sporting world fits in the grand scheme of things. Most of America agrees that the results of a football or baseball game are insignificant compared with the thousands of lives lost and the vulnerability that many Americans now feel.

As a result, on Thursday the league office canceled every National Football League game for week two. Major League Baseball canceled all games from Tuesday through Thursday and announced on Thursday that no games will be played until Monday. It marked the first time in nearly 90 years that MLB canceled its games on consecutive days for reasons other than a work stoppage.

Other games affected include the entire slate of games in Major League Soccer as well as matches in Europe.

The United European Football Association, which conducts tournaments and leagues for clubs from various European leagues, called off this week's remaining Champions League and UEFA Cup matches as a mark of respect to the victims.

Back on U.S. soil, golf tournaments sanctioned by the PGA, including the World Golf Championships, were all canceled and the majority of college football games have been canceled. The future of others remains in doubt.

For the second time in a little more than two years, NASCAR canceled a race. The event, scheduled for New Hampshire, was canceled and rescheduled for the day after Thanksgiving. In July 1999 the circuit was forced to cancel its July race in Daytona due to wild fires in Florida.

Horse tracks from all over the country put racing on hold Tuesday and Wednesday, but many were back to normal activities on Thursday.

The lack of horse racing at many tracks caused a cutback in activity for online sports books and Internet TAB services that rely on midweek action to get them through until weekend sports betting.

"Our servers aren't getting hit at all," said one operator who wished to remain anonymous. "During the week we see a lot of hits on people checking out the lines for the weekend games and a lot of action betting on the horses. There was none of it this week though."

With so many events being canceled, it is an easy assumption to make that sports books are taking a hit.

But losing money for reasons out of one's control is drastically different from losing it as a result of bad business decisions.

"It is really hard for me to make any comments right now about my business, because it has been the farthest thing from my mind to be honest with you," said another sports book operator. "Just not having that one week of football games could make or break us for the year, but these events make you realize that you could have bigger problems to worry about than losing revenue from one week of football games."

The offshore books who cater to American players said the NFL cancellations would result in the biggest hit. European books said the EUFA action being put on hold would affect their business the most.

Regardless of how or why different books were being affected, operators from around the world agreed that attention shouldn't be focused on sporting events right now, but instead on the effort to rescue as many people as possible and remembering those innocent lives lost in moments of terror.

Some operators said they would consider setting up systems that could allow a percentage of winnings to go to help relief efforts once sites were up and running and back to normal.

"I think it is the least we could do as an industry," one operator said. "It is a sad, sad time not only for America, but for the world as well

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