The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has necessitated many changes in American traditions in 2020. And the same is true of one event in which two of this country’s staples intersect—hot dogs and the Fourth of July.
The annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest will go as scheduled on Independence Day, as usual, and will be televised on ESPN, beginning at noon. But, like most everything else, concerns about the coronavirus have brought about major changes.
According to Yahoo Life, Major League Eating, which sanctions the event, has moved it indoors to a warehouse. Competitors will be socially distanced and separated by plexiglass dividers.
All of that makes it, well, a new ballgame, even for someone such as DraftKings director of sportsbook operations Johnny Avello, who has been setting odds on the event for years.
Avello, who was the Wynn Las Vegas sports book director for 13 years before joining DraftKings in 2018, said he has been offering odds on this competition since the late 1990s. “But that was in Las Vegas,” he said. “That was for entertainment purposes only and there was no wagering on it.”
This year marks the first time legal wagers can be accepted on the competition.
The defending champions, of course, are heavy favorites. Joey Chestnut, who has won four straight and 12 of the last 13 men’s titles, was minus-1000 as of Thursday afternoon, meaning it would take 10 dollars to win one dollar on Chestnut. Six-time defending women’s champion Miki Sudo opened at minus-500.
“They’re going against less participants,” Avello noted. “The men’s (event) usually has around 20 and this year it’s only six. Everybody behind the top contenders hasn’t even been close so the question is how much of a favorite do you make them?”
And then there is the variable that instead of the Coney Island beachfront with thousands of cheering fans, the venue will be an undisclosed warehouse. The forecast for Saturday is partly sunny with a high of 83 degrees, but now that won’t matter.
“Indoors, no fans, controlled environment, with no weather issues, no fans,” Avello mused. “Do they lack motivation with no fans or do they concentrate more? With no sun in their face, does that help?”
Although individual sports such as the PGA Tour and NASCAR have returned to the sports landscape, major professional team sports have not. Unlike most previous Independence Days, a full card of Major League Baseball will not follow this display of competitive gluttony.
Thus, Avello believes it will attract action for DraftKings in the states of Colorado, New Hampshire and New Jersey, where it is available.
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“There is limited content out there,” he said, referring to events to wager on. “I think this is going to do well. I think there are going to be thousands of people that are going to participate.”
Avello added that people who can’t wager legally can enter a free $25,000 contest at Sportsbook.DraftKings.com/pools. There is a contest on the Nathan’s competition with numerous propositions, and whoever gets the most right will be the winner.
FanDuel’s Colorado sportsbook also is taking legal action on this event. As of early Thursday afternoon, Chestnut was minus-1000 and Sudo was minus-800. Chestnut’s total hot dogs eaten was over 72.5 minus-115, with Sudo’s at over 40.5 minus-130. By comparison, Avello had Chestnut at over 72.5 minus-160, and also was offering over 74.5 plus-140.
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