When the coronavirus pandemic hit, sports bettors without action turned to the stock market to scratch the itch, and some say it has moved the market. This according to a recent article in The New York Times.
“Millions of small-time investors have opened trading accounts in recent months,” the article reports, “a flood of new buyers unlike anything the market had seen in years, just as lockdown orders halted entire sectors of the economy and sent unemployment soaring.” It cites comments from Julian Emanuel, chief equity a derivatives strategist at brokerage firm BTIG, who says the spike is playing a significant role in the market’s recent surge: “There’s zero doubt in my mind that it is a factor.”
While the article notes that it’s unclear how many of the new players are sports bettors, what is clear is that many are “behaving like aggressive gamblers” as evidenced by a jump in stock options activity as well as transactions that “make little economic sense, like buying up the nearby valueless shares of bankrupt companies.”
The article reports that gamblers legally bet over $13 billion on sports last year, according to research and consulting firm Eilers& Krejcik Gaming, which estimates that illegal betting is more than 10 times that amount. The firm said that in March, sports betting revenue plummeted by some 60 percent compared to February and may have fallen by as much as 80 percent in April.
Even with small investments, the article notes, newcomers can move stocks prices: “On most days, the overwhelming majority of stock investors do nothing, while the buyers and sellers establish prices. So even a small influx of hyperactive speculators can have a significant effect.”