punter.JPGREUTERS/Rick Wilking

  • With no sport to watch live and bet on, gamblers are resorting to playing the stock market for a quick fix during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • That’s according to the Financial Times, which reported on Wednesday that brokerages are seeing a sharp increase in account openings as sport fans seek new ways to gamble in the absence of any live sporting action.
  • Three US brokerages, Charles Schwab, ETrade and Interactive Brokers together added 780,000 new customers in either March or April. 
  • Rich Repetto, senior research analyst at Sandler O’Neill, said: “There’s no sports … so people are trading for fun with the backdrop of improving markets.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

With no sport to watch live and bet on, gamblers are resorting to playing the stock market for a quick fix during the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s according to the Financial Times, which reported on Wednesday that brokerages are seeing a sharp increase in account openings as sport fans seek new ways to gamble in the absence of any live sporting action.

The coronavirus has brought economic and leisure activity to a standstill, with virtually all major sporting events postponed, and the few that have returned being played behind close doors.

High profile cancellations and postponements include the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which will now take place in July 2021, and the Euro 2020 soccer tournament, which will also be held next year.

Against this backdrop, three of the four biggest brokerages in the US, Charles Schwab, ETrade and Interactive Brokers, added a cumulative 780,000 new customers in March or April, the FT said.

Read more: BANK OF AMERICA: 5 main themes will shape the post-coronavirus investing landscape. Here are strategies for playing the winners and losers of each.

Rich Repetto, senior research analyst at Sandler O’Neill, told the FT: “People are staying at home, there’s no sports on — so people are trading for fun with the backdrop of improving markets.”

The increase in new customers comes at an important time as Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade and ETrade all slashed charges for individual stocks, ETFs and option trades end of last year, making casual trading cheaper than before.

Big players like Ameritrade followed the lead of newer entrants like Robinhood, which was one of the first brokerages slash trading fees to zero.

Notable entrants into the markets in recent weeks include Dave Portnoy, the CEO of sports news and betting website Barstool Sports. According to the FT, Portnoy poured $3 million into an ETrade account on March 23 — the day the stock market rally kicked off.

Daniel Goodwin, 39, who works in the legal industry in Indiana, told the FT that his daily evening routine is usually to bet about $100 on a few sport games. 

Read more: A BlackRock money manager overseeing the top healthcare fund of the past 20 years pinpoints 3 growth areas she’s betting on — and one she’s avoiding amid the coronavirus recovery.

Now that’s not possible, Goodwin said he opened a ETtrade account, paid in a few thousands of dollars, and started buying stocks a few weeks ago. 

“I’m not here for the long run — I just want to throw a thousand bucks at something to see if I can make a few hundred,” Goodwin told the FT. 

He added: “With sports, if I throw $1,000 at something, I lose the whole thing real quick, but here if things go south you can cut your losses.”

Stock markets have dealt with major volatility in recent months, partly due to the pandemic and a bitter oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. But since touching lows on March 23, stock markets have largely rallied, boosted by the easing of lockdowns and hopes for a coronavirus vaccine.

The S&P 500 touched a low of 2237.40 on March 23, but has recovered around 32% since.

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