Instead, Major League Baseball, like sports leagues across the world, has suspended its operations indefinitely because of the global pandemic. Last month, the National Basketball Association suspended its season after a player tested positive for coronavirus. Three weeks ago, the National Hockey League followed suit and suspended its 2019-2020 regular season due to the pandemic. Major League Soccer has also suspended its matches, as did golf, auto racing, tennis, and even the 2020 Olympics.
With sports pretty much canceled everywhere these days, and social distancing rules prohibiting even neighborhood games in the park, what is The City of Champions, a town known around the world for its sports fandom, to do?
Trade in its peanuts and crackerjacks and Terrible Towels for two paddles and a little white ball, of course.
While physical casinos are closed — Pittsburgh's Rivers Casino announced its temporary closure on March 13 — online betting is still open, and table tennis, a.k.a. ping pong, has been the top sport bet every day in Pennsylvania on BetRivers.com since Sun., March 22.
Here we go, Ping Pong, here we go?
“Ping Pong has the same characteristics as popular betting sports like tennis or baseball, but the game is faster,” says Mattias Stetz, chief operating officer of Rush Street Interactive, which operates BetRivers.com, in a press release. “It is a perfect game for live betting in that it starts and stops all the time, with very fast changes in momentum.”
Rivers Casino initially announced its physical North Side location would be closed for two weeks, but has since updated its website to say, “We will reopen when state officials determine that it’s safe. The health and well-being of our Team Members, guests and the community is our number-one priority.” The casino also notes that its team members are still being paid during the closure.
Advertisements for the physical casino have now been replaced with advertisements for its online betting site, where people can bet on not just sports wagers, but virtual slot machines. And while unemployment continues to climb, with many Pennsylvanians now without income, the online site is still seeing an "uptick in visitors," according to Stetz who answered questions from City Paper over email.
Have any changes been made to the online gambling site since the physical locations were closed down?
With many of the major sports leagues being postponed, we have worked closely with the regulators to get new leagues approved to give our players the chance to try new events, which has led to us for example to offer Table Tennis, Nicaraguan Soccer, and Russian basketball, to name a few. In the absence of most sports right now, we’ve been impressed with how much bettors seem to be enjoying these games, which most had been previously unfamiliar with prior to two weeks ago.
The online casino (slots and tables games) has not been affected but is operating as usual 24/7 and offering our players an additional source of entertainment. We just received approval from the regulator to launch 88 Fortunes on BetRivers.com, which is a very popular land-based slot machine so it will be interesting to see if the Pennsylvania players who usually play in the land-based casino will like the online version as much (They do in New Jersey!!).
Have any employees been able to transition from the physical location to helping with the online casino, or is that site run independently of the physical casino?
We are running operations independently, but have a very good cooperation with our land-based partners, and we have been even more in touch lately than usual.
On a lighter note, how many games on the online site mimic real games that people might miss playing in the casino?
We have over 80 slot games live online in Pennsylvania, in addition to popular table games like BlackJack and roulette. About half of the slots are familiar to land-based players, like Cleopatra, Double Diamond, and Dragon’s Law Twin Fever from suppliers like IGT, Scientific Games, AGS, and Everi. And as I mentioned, 88 Fortunes will launch in the next couple of days.
What's the most popular online game?
Our players love BlackJack. Of the slots, some of the most popular ones are: Game King Video Poker, Turn Your Fortune, Triple Threat, Cleopatra, Mercy of the Gods, Chili Chili Fire. The players also love our online progressives such as Divine Fortune and Mercy of God, especially since players have been winning some very big jackpots recently. We don’t have Divine Fortune on BetRivers yet, but players can find it on our other site in PA on PlaySugarHouse.com.
What's the largest payout someone has won online, and how does that compare to the largest payout from the casino?
We had a Jackpot winner on the popular progressive Divine Fortune win $278,000 on a $1 bet last week on PlaySugarHouse.com in PA.
Is there anything you'd like your customers to know?
We currently offer a match of new customers’ first deposit, up to $250, meaning when a new player funds their account for the first time, we double up whatever they deposited. We also focus on offering high-quality customer service and paying out quickly! In terms of fun promotions, we are also running a virtual road trip from Las Vegas to Philadelphia at the moment, where players earn virtual wheel spins for free play with every spin they make. These wheel spins have different mile markers on them, which moves the player closer and closer to Philly. With every state line they cross, there are additional rewards and bonus money or free play to be earned.