In a normal year, fueled by the football season, August is the calm before the sports betting storm. But 2020 has been anything but normal.
The NFL has canceled all preseason games because of the coronavirus pandemic. But the month still shapes up as the biggest August ever for Las Vegas sportsbooks. The NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball are all back on the betting board alongside the UFC, PGA Tour and NASCAR.
“If the NBA and NHL and baseball don’t get canceled, it will be,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said. “I’m staying positive and hope they all finish.”
September also promises to be a sports betting bonanza with the NFL and college football scheduled to kick off their seasons.
“You could theoretically have the NBA and NHL playoffs going on with the NFL,” Westgate sportsbook director John Murray said. “The Kentucky Derby is on Labor Day Weekend. It could be the busiest September ever.”
Bogdanovich and Murray each give the NBA and NHL good odds to finish their seasons and believe the NFL is a virtual lock to play its entire schedule.
“I’m very confident in the NFL,” Murray said. “The NFL’s money comes from TV contracts, not from gate revenues. If the country continues to be somewhat locked down, the TV ratings for NFL games are going to go through the roof.”
Said Bogdanovich: “I’m high on the NFL. First of all, they’re the last to go ,so they’ll probably learn from everyone else. And they’re the richest league there is. If anybody’s got the resources to figure it out, it’s certainly them.”
Baseball opened its shortened 60-game season July 23 and is battling an unsettling outbreak of coronavirus cases, and the NBA reopened its season Thursday near Orlando, Florida.
Here’s a look at the rest of the upcoming sports calendar:
Saturday, NHL restart
The NHL will drop the puck to start its expanded 24-team postseason in hub cities Edmonton and Toronto. Sixteen teams will play eight best-of-five Stanley Cup qualifier series and eight teams will play two round-robins to determine the top four playoff seeds from each conference.
Monday, Golden Knights-Stars
The Golden Knights are the No. 3 seed in the West and a -125 favorite over Dallas, the No. 4 seed, in their round-robin opener in Edmonton.
Thursday to Aug. 9, PGA Championship
Betting on golf is way up since the PGA Tour returned June 11.
“Probably 300 or 400 percent,” Bogdanovich said.
The PGA Championship has long served as the year’s fourth golf major, but it will be the first major of 2020. Brooks Koepka is the 10-1 favorite to win at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
Aug. 11, NHL playoffs
Vegas is the 6-1 favorite at the Westgate to win the 2020 Stanley Cup. The first round of the NHL playoffs is slated to start Aug. 11, followed by the second round on Aug 25, the Conference Finals on Sept. 8 and the Stanley Cup Final on Sept. 22.
Aug. 15, UFC 252
UFC betting also is up about 300 percent during the pandemic. UFC 252 will be headlined by a trilogy fight between UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and former champ Daniel Cormier at the Apex in Las Vegas. The line is pick’em.
Aug. 17, NBA playoffs
The Los Angeles Lakers (+225), Milwaukee Bucks (+275) and Los Angeles Clippers (+325) are the three favorites to win the 2020 NBA title. The first round of the playoffs tips off Aug. 17. The conference semifinals are slated to start Aug. 31, followed by the Conference Finals on Sept. 15 and the NBA Finals on Sept. 30.
Aug. 29, college football?
Kansas and Oklahoma each are still tentatively scheduled to open the college football season Aug. 29. But that might change Monday, when the Big 12 is expected to formally announce its plan for this year.
The Atlantic Coast Conference has announced an 11-game schedule (10 conference, one nonconference) that will start the week of Sept. 7-12. The Big Ten, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference have each announced 10-game conference-only schedules. The Pac-12 and SEC are scheduled to start on Sept. 26. The Big Ten has not announced a start date.
Sept. 5, Kentucky Derby
The “Run for the Roses” almost always takes place on the first Saturday in May as the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. But this year it will serve as the second leg after Tiz the Law won the Belmont Stakes on June 20.
Tiz the Law is the +220 favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. The Preakness Stakes is scheduled for Oct. 3.
Sept. 10, NFL kickoff
The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs are 10-point favorites over the Houston Texans in the NFL’s 2020 season opener.
Sept. 13, Raiders at Panthers
The Raiders are 1-point road favorites over Carolina in their first game as Las Vegas’ NFL franchise.
The first NFL Sunday of 2020 also will feature a showdown between Tom Brady and Drew Brees in New Orleans in Brady’s debut with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+4).
Sept. 21, “Monday Night Football” in Las Vegas
The Raiders are 4½-point underdogs to the Saints in their home opener at Allegiant Stadium on “Monday Night Football.”
Sept. 29, MLB playoffs
The first round of baseball’s expanded 16-team playoffs is slated to start Sept. 29 with four best-of-three series in each league.
The World Series is scheduled to start Oct. 20. The Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees are the +350 co-favorites.
“Baseball is the sport everyone is monitoring right now,” Murray said. “I’m optimistic about it personally. We’re hoping for the best.”