Sports betting without sports? Adapting to the age of coronavirus –

It’s been more than two weeks since American sports shut down in the wake of the coronavirus, which means that a significant – and largely illegal – business in Alabama has gone dormant: sports betting.

Unless you want to bet on the adjectives President Trump uses in his daily news conference, or feel like digging into the details of Japanese sumo wrestling.

Birmingham is regularly mentioned nationally as a hotbed of off-the-books gambling, mainly but not solely fed by college and professional football. March Madness is usually second only to the Super Bowl for the volume of sports betting nationally, and it didn’t happen for the first time since the 1930s.

Consider this – estimates had about 47 million Americans betting on last year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, to the tune of $8.5 billion.

That absence of activity and commerce has hit many a bettor and bookmaker equally hard. The American Gaming Association, a group which lobbies for lifting gambling restrictions, estimates up to $150 billion is wagered illegally on sports every year, with most wagers placed on NFL and college football games.

Lance Taylor is a long-time WJOX radio personality in Birmingham who has his own betting subscriber site, Lance’s Lock, and does weekly appearances on nationally syndicated Fox Radio, as well as stations in Austin and Memphis. He says “you can’t swing a dead cat in Birmingham without hitting a bookie.”