The Covid-19 pandemic had a similar impact on the gambling industry as other industries which had a mix of physical premises and online sites.
Gambling shops in the UK were forced to close during the pandemic lockdowns and consumers flocked to online casinos. For many, being stuck at home with more disposable income found them looking for a new outlet, while for others they were happy to avoid socialising. Another headwind for the industry was the lack of live sports available as many stadiums were shuttered and gamblers missed the presence of the crowds for in-play betting. For some punters, this led to them switching to non-GamStop casinos to find international events.
Closure of Physical Locations Brings Users Online
The Covid-19 pandemic led to a countrywide closure of casinos, bars, bingo halls, horse racing, and other venues, as well as lottery outlets. A suspension of these sporting events also affected the gambling industry worldwide.For the gambling industry, this meant that activities generating around 50% of industry takings ground to a halt.
The online gambling industry is one of the industries that actually benefited from the pandemic as online gaming helped to weather the storm in the physical units. Online casino sites added new users, while many regular players shifted their betting online, leading to a ‘new normal’ for the gambling industry.Using Australia as an example, the Australian Gambling Research Centre reported that one in three survey participants had applied for a new online betting account during COVID-19.
Online Sports Betting
Online sports betting took a big hit during the pandemic in the UK with a 55% drop from March to April in 2020.
Theclosure of sporting stadiums and events would have seen some gamblers seeking outplatforms like casinonotongamstop.netfor non-UK casinos to capture sporting events in nations that had lower virus cases and were still running live events.
Activity has started to pick up again in Britain with the Grand National horse race seeing a 4% boost in active accounts, according to the UKGC. Many events have restarted in 2021 with Six Nations rugby and the Euro 2020 tournament being two examples. American sports have also returned, and the summer of 2021 has seen a run to the NBA basketball and NHL Stanley Cup finals. In South America, the Copa America tournament was also played with Argentina and Brazil playing out a star-studded final.
Despite the restarting of events, the UKGC reported that real event betting revenues decreased 11% between April and May, to nearly £239m. The number of bets (13%) and active players (24%) also decreased in the period but this is being put down to, “the exit of recreational players who joined to participate in the English Grand National and the easing of restrictions which provided more entertainment and leisure opportunities for consumers.”
Games of Chance
For the year running up to March 2020, slots and casino betting had been on the rise with a 25% and 13% year-on-year change respectively.
Once the UK lockdown started it was casinos that grew by 5%, while slots slowed by -2%. These changes were likely caused by the longer amount of time spent online, with players gravitating to longer activities. The real growth was in games with longer durations to payout and virtual betting was up 44%, with poker up 53%.
Games of chance have a quick turn-around and this was likely more popular when users had to fit their gambling into a busy work schedule. Some players would have only been able to bet on their lunch hour, or on the train home. These games of chance are not as profitable if played over large stretches of time and this would explain the rise of poker as players had more time to apply skill. This trend was also seen outside of gambling, with a flood of new retail investors moving into stock market investing. Many investors did so with government subsidy money or furlough.
The UKGC figures showed that for the period of March 2020 to April 2021, slots remained flat and sessions longer than an hour decreased by 4%. The average session length decreased to 20 minutes with 8% lasting longer than an hour.
Players Seeking Alternative Casinos
Another trend seen in the gambling industry over the last few years has been a move towards overseas casinos not on GamStop. These sites have become more popular due to the strict regulatory clampdown in the UK.
Casinos and betting sites in the UK have been forced to adhere to the GamStop exclusion rules and that has also seen new measures in place such as the ban on credit card funding, and in-game restrictions such as spin timers. Overseas sites can also provide access to international sports and it’s likely that some were seeking sporting events that were not affected by the lockdowns.
The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdowns had a big impact on the gambling industry. The betting industry followed the same trends as other sectors as physical premises were shuttered and sports betting events were shut down. This led to a 55% drop in real events betting at UK casinos.
Virtual sports betting and poker were the big winners in the early stages of the lockdowns as sports betting punters looked for longer events that retained a need for research, skill or a longer time to payout. Another trend in recent times was an increase in players seeking out alternative outlets to the UK and sites not on GamStop would have provided international live events that were still ongoing in the early stages of the pandemic.
The UK gambling scene was able toweather the storm of the lockdowns and the summer of 2021 has seen a boom in sporting events for punters to get involved in again. The reopening of the economy has seen a drop in online betting as people get back out to enjoy other recreation and events. This will lead to a normalization of the betting trends and we will soon get a chance to see how the betting industry has changed for the long term.