Between the start and the end of this week, the sports and sports betting world screeched to a halt. Concerns about the spread of COVID-19 are impacting all facets of American life. As the cancellations, postponements, and closures keep rolling in, we are keeping tabs on how this is impacting the Indiana gambling economy.
Tuesday, March 17: Kentucky Derby postponed
11:30 a.m. – Iowa governor closes casinos
In the wake of an announcement from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds limiting gatherings to 10 people, Iowa casinos will close operations for the remainder of March. Here is more from Reynolds:
“These are unprecedented times and the state of Iowa will do whatever is necessary to address this public health disaster,” she said. “I have authorized all available state resources, supplies, equipment and materials to combat the spread of COVID-19. The actions taken today are necessary to protect the health and safety of all Iowans and are critical to mitigating the spread of the virus.”
9:00 a.m. – Kenucky Derby and Oaks postponed to September
The Kentucky Derby will be postponed from May 5 until Sept. 5. Churchill Downs announced the postponement with a mass email the night of March 16, but provided the replacement date during a conference call the following morning.
“Throughout the rapid development of the COVID-19 pandemic, our first priority has been how to best protect the safety and health of our guests, team members and community. As the situation evolved, we steadily made all necessary operational adjustments to provide the safest experience.”
This year will be the first time that the race won’t take place on the first Saturday in May since 1945.
The 146th Longines Kentucky Oaks will also be postponed from May 1 to Sept. 1. The new dates for Oaks and the Derby need approval from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Churchill Downs is expecting to receive the green light on March 19.
Monday, March 16: Keeneland 2020 Spring Race Meet canceled
3:05 p.m. – Kentucky track cancels semiannual meet
Horse racing is just one more sport that’s now seeing cancellations due to COVID- 19 concerns. Lexington, Kentucky’s Keeneland has announced that its 2020 Spring Race Meet is now canceled. Much like other sports around the country, that cancellation is due to the CDC’s recommendations.
“The decision was made following a guidance announcement issued Sunday, March 15 by the Centers for Disease Control, which warned against holding large events and mass gatherings that include ‘conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings and other types of assemblies.'”
The CDC recommended that events with 50 or more people should be suspended by at least eight weeks. The meet was originally scheduled to take place between April 2-24.
2:10 p.m. – MLB pushes back opening day
Originally, Major League Baseball was scheduled to have its earliest season opener ever. The plan was for all teams to start their seasons on March 26.
However, now things are pushed back until at least May 16. Last week the MLB decided to postpone the start of the season until April 9. That’s now been pushed back even further.
“Following last night’s newly updated recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) restricting events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks, the opening of the 2020 regular season will be pushed back in accordance with that guidance.”
The MLB is planning on having teams complete as much of their 162-game schedule as possible, but obviously that all depends on when the season gets started.
The league is still open to pushing back that opening day even further down the line. Things will be evaluated on a week-week basis.
11:30 a.m. – Governor Holcomb shuts down bars and restaurants
Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered bars, clubs, and restaurants throughout the state to shut down. The changes put Indiana in line with the CDC’s official recommendations to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
Here is one of the statements Holcomb released about the changes.
“Indiana will adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for large events and mass gatherings. The guidance recommends no in-person events of more than 50 people.”
Bars and restaurants are still allowed to continue their take-out and delivery services through the end of March, although that may change as the situation develops.
Additionally, hospitals throughout Indiana will be postponing elective surgeries. That change was made to keep those operations from bogging down the states’s health care system.
11:18 a.m. – NFL announces that the Draft will go on as planned
This year’s NFL Draft will proceed as scheduled. With the cancellation of mass gatherings, the typical format for the Draft will be off the table. Things will take place remotely, although the league isn’t sure how it wants to pull that off that.
The NFL announced the changes with a memo sent out to each team. The league also issued a full statement about the decision online.
“The clubs’ selection of players will proceed as scheduled April 23-25. The NFL is exploring innovative options for how the process will be conducted and will provide that information as it becomes available. The selection process will be televised.”
All public Draft events in Las Vegas next month are also canceled.
Sunday, March 15: IGC closes all Indiana casinos for two weeks
The Indiana Gaming Commission is ordering a mandatory two-week closure for all 14 of the state’s casinos that will go into effect at 6 a.m. on Monday.
Here is the full statement from IGC:
“Based on changing circumstances and in the interest of public health, Indiana licensed gaming and racing operations will close for at least 14 days beginning at 6:00 a.m. on Monday, March 16, 2020. The Indiana Gaming and Horse Racing Commissions will continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates as appropriate.”
Illinois also shut down its casinos over the weekend. Ohio similarly will shut down casinos after a directive from Gov. Mike DeWine banning mass gatherings.
Michigan casinos remain open, with the exception of Gun Lake Casino, which is voluntarily closing for two weeks after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a directive banning public gatherings of more than 250 people.
Friday, March 13: NFL cancels pre-draft visits
2:40 p.m. – NFL calls off in-person pre-Draft visits
The future of this year’s NFL Draft is up in the air. The league is no longer allowing draft-eligible players to visit, meet or workout for teams until further notice. The NFL announced the change with a memo that was sent out to each club.
“After considering recent medical and public safety information related to COVID-19, we have decided to prohibit all in-person pre-draft visits involving draft-eligible players effective at the end of this business day, until further notice.”
The NFL Draft isn’t scheduled to take place until April 23, but the league is open to canceling the event down the line if the situation calls for it.
Several teams have already pulled their scouts and coaches off the road from meetings, but the NFL’s announcement now makes that official league-wide.
11:30 a.m. – Indy racing and NASCAR off through April
Thursday, auto racing was one of the only sports left standing. That is not the case on Friday. Both NASCAR and Indy Car racing are postponed through April. That means, at least for now, the Indy 500 is still scheduled to go on Sunday, May 24. Local news outlet WIBC obtained the following statement from Indy racing:
“We are actively monitoring the situation and working closely with public health officials to ensure the well-being of our spectators and event participants. Our opening day is nearly 60 days away, which gives us time to continue gathering expert advice and evaluating the most up-to-date information available.”
7:05 a.m.- Soccer throughout England grinds to a halt
The Premier League, the Football Association, the English Football League, and the Women’s Super League have all suspended operations until further notice. The EPL issued a statement about the decision:
“In this unprecedented situation, we are working closely with our clubs, government, the FA and the EFL and can reassure everyone the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters are our priority.”
The leagues are hoping to get things back underway by April 4, but that’s subject to change as the situation develops.
In the meantime, since Champions League and Europa League are also off the board, soccer fans can turn their attention to Liga MX, which is still operating without cancellations.
Updates from Thursday, March 12 and earlier
College basketball conferences from around the country canceled their respective postseason tournaments throughout the day on March 12.
The NCAA made the call to cancel this year’s March Madness tournament that same evening. The college basketball season has officially come to a close.
Professional sports leagues also suspended their seasons throughout the day on March 12. Here’s a look at what leagues suspended things indefinitely or canceled events.
- NBA: Season suspended, will reevaluate things in 30 days
- NHL: Season suspended indefinitely
- MLB: Spring training canceled, season openers delayed until at least April 9.
- PGA Tour: Players Championship and all events through the Valero Texas Open canceled. Masters Tournament suspended indefinitely.
- MLS: Season suspended indefinitely
- XFL: Remainder of 2020 season canceled.
- UEFA: Champions League and Europa League suspended indefinitely
The NBA had a day’s head start on the cancellations. The league suspended its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on the night of March 11.