Above all else, the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) is a human tragedy that affects the entire world’s population. With major and growing consequences, this new virus has drastically changed the world we live in.
The world economy is heavily affected with millions of people ordered to stay home and non-essential businesses shutting down. The gambling industry is no exception. Brick and mortar as well as online casinos and sports bookmakers are adjusting to a rapidly evolving situation. So too are the players.
Brick and Mortar Gambling During Covid-19
Social distancing is the most efficient way to slow or prevent the spread of coronavirus. A simple concept with huge ramifications. Streets are empty, schools are closed, and people cross the street so they don’t pass near each other.
In fact, according to The Guardian, over 1.7 billion people in the world are on a lockdown. That is approximately 20% of the world population that cannot leave their homes unless it’s completely necessary to do so.
Many businesses have closed down in support of social distancing with their employees temporarily laid off. Businesses that are allowed to stay open are those deemed necessary and the supply chain around them, such as:
- Post offices
- Gas stations
It is obvious that land based casinos and betting shops are not deemed as providing an essential service. It is also vitally important to understand the Covid-19 outbreak is constantly changing and affecting each country differently.
For example, casinos in the world’s largest gambling hub, Macau, closed for two weeks when the outbreak was at its peak. Once it subsided, they reopened their doors.
As the Covid-19 spreads strongly to other parts of the world, casinos in those locations close down as well. This is to adhere to the social distancing guidelines and make people stay in their homes.
This is currently the case with casinos in Europe and North America, where they are temporarily closed. Even if they are not forced by the government to shut down, casinos do so on their own accord.
Similarly to Macau, when the outbreak lessens, casinos are expected to reopen. Depending on the financial hit each casino takes during the lockdown measures, it will be interesting to see if all of them will manage to reopen.
Betting shops are closed as well simply because there are no sports. Football leagues, Euro 2020, major tennis and basketball tournaments are all suspended. The biggest event of the year, the Summer Olympics at Tokyo, is the latest to be postponed as a result of Covid-19.
When will sports resume depends on the evolution of the coronavirus outbreak. Meanwhile, betting shops remain closed and expect to lose millions in revenue.
How Online Casinos Are Faring During Covid-19
The online gambling industry has a huge advantage over its land-based counterparts. It perfectly fits the social distancing approach. People can choose among a variety of trusted online casinos to play a few slots, some table games or other wagers from the comfort – and safety – of their homes.
An already robust industry, online casinos are expected to see an increase in traffic as a result of the virus. People are confined in their homes. Out of boredom, stress or for a chance to make some money, many will turn to online gambling.
In this unprecedented situation, online casinos will most likely overtake their sports betting counterparts. With all sports competitions virtually wiped out, sports bettors are not rushing to spend huge amounts of money at online bookmakers. Gamblers with a solid financial situation are more likely to turn to online casinos instead.
A study in the Vents Magazine looks at how the coronavirus has so far impacted the iGaming market. It highlights the negative impact on gambling operators, such as:
- William Hill shares have more than halved since February 21st, 2020
- Flutter Entertainment who owns Paddy Power Betfair, has seen a drop of 15% in their shares
- Playtech, one of the leading casino software providers, is also experiencing a sharp drop in its share value by more than 15%
The coronavirus is a new situation for all of us. Customers and businesses alike have to make drastic changes to handle this crisis. While people have more free time to gamble online, they are also more hesitant about spending money in these uncertain times.
Online casinos then look into using generous bonuses to attract new players. Even no deposit bonuses to get players through the door. Alternatively, players have the option to play pretty much all casino games for fun, albeit without a chance to win real money.
Online bookmakers are a little more limited in what they can offer punters. An otherwise obscure Belarussian Football League is now advertised as much as the Premier League. That is because it is pretty much the only football you can get these days.
Bookmakers have also turned to virtual sports to fill the betting void left by mainstream sports. They are also heavily promoting other less known events.
According to The Irish Times, a senior manager with William Hill advised staff to, “talk to your customers about what other things they can bet on – table tennis and Japanese baseball are proving very popular”.
These high risk betting offers on virtual and obscure sports is alarming to government authorities. These combined with the boredom and stress people experience during the Covid-19 outbreak can lead to problem gambling.
Because of this, British government officials are urging gambling companies to put a temporary betting cap of £50 per day during the Covid-19 outbreak. This is to prevent people from spending too much money on high risk online betting.
In the span of just a few months, the Covid-19 outbreak has shut down economies and sent over a billion people in lockdown.
Most land based casinos and bookmakers have closed down until the outbreak lessens. Online gambling operators are scrambling to get and keep players on their platforms.
Hopefully sooner than later, things will go back to their normal routine. Brick and mortar casinos will open their doors again with football filling up the betting offers at bookmakers.