Crain's Detroit Business: Scott Tainsky on the impact of sports cancellations

The sports world went dark at lightning speed. In Detroit casinos on Wednesday, hundreds of people, including former sports stars and local dignitaries, crammed into sleek new lounges to place their first legal sports wagers in Michigan. Within 24 hours there were no longer games left to bet on. On the business side, the loss of local sports means the sudden evaporation of millions of dollars for venues, restaurants and bars. It has also jeopardized thousands of jobs. For the community, it has swallowed up an escape that's supposed to be immune to whatever else is happening in the world. "We haven't seen anything like this hit sports since 9/11," said Scott Tainsky, director of sport and entertainment management at Wayne State University, which like other schools in the state, is closing campus temporarily to stop the spread of the virus. "Socially, we look to sports as the water cooler conversation, the commonality that brings us together. We won't have that for the foreseeable future in our daily lives." Fallout is far-reaching and not fully realized. "If we start at the bottom layer of the sports pyramid, it's being physically active," Tainsky said. "Kids aren't going to get their exercise. It'd be foolish to go to a gym nowadays. In terms of economic activity, there are millions of dollars changing hands every week when we have large scale sporting events. If that money escapes the local economy, the numbers drop off to zero." The economic impact from the sports halt will ultimately depend on what happens to the dollars no longer being spent on sporting events, Tainsky said. "The largest thing that brings us together nowadays is sports," he said "It's all 'ESPN Classic' now. This is a natural experiment to test all those economic analyses we've been seeing all these years. We will know a lot more, unfortunately, a year from now."

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