The COVID-19 pandemic brought about lockdowns all across the world. The most affected industries included transport, tourism, and sports. However, the online gambling industry benefited from the lockdown.
The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns saw an increase in screen time for many people. There was a sudden surge of visitors to casino websites. Online casinos were some of the most popular ways of alleviating the stress of being stuck at home and beating boredom.
How the pandemic fuelled online gambling
In a few months, the COVID shutdowns changed lives dramatically. The effects continue to be felt even as many parts of the world start opening up. According to Global Poker, a research firm, the United States experienced a dramatic increase in online poker during the pandemic.
The number of first-time poker players improved by 255 percent during the lockdowns. The poker industry improved by 43 percent since April 2020. This increase triggered the amendment of online gambling legislations in certain countries. Belarus, for example, took that opportunity to legalize online casinos. Here are a few ways the pandemic impacted online gambling.
- Online casino offers
After the pandemic struck, online casinos used various tactics to attract new players. They offered attractive promotions and bonuses. One of the biggest attractions for new players was the free to play (F2P) promotion. The ability to play without risking your money was enough to convince most new players.
There is a new form of online gambling where players do not need to register an account. Named no account casino or Pay n play, all you need to do is deposit funds and play. The biggest benefits of no-account casinos are security and discretion.
The technology promotes fast payouts. Deposits and withdrawals have always been a major concern for casino players. With no registration casinos, gamers have the chance to complete transactions in just a few minutes.
- Anxiety, and boredom
Most people were not used to being home for so long before the pandemic. Spending so much time cut off from work, hobbies, and school left them feeling bored, depressed, and anxious.
The pandemic was stressful as well. It affected all aspects of individuals’ lives including personal relationships and work. The feelings, topped with the shift from personal interactions to online communication fueled the growth of the online gambling industry. Since most people spent a lot of their time online, clicking on gambling sites became almost obvious.
- The closure of casinos and ban on live sports
Land-based casinos did not operate during the lockdown and punters could no longer visit their favourite brick and mortar casinos. Major sporting events including the Olympics were suspended and sports lovers had to find alternatives. Sports arenas and casinos had been termed as hotspots for spreading the virus. Online casinos became the only option when the itch to gamble struck.
The convenience and accessibility of online casinos became even more important during the pandemic. It is the main reason why online gambling has remained popular even as land-based casinos start opening up.
Punters no longer need to get out of their homes to place a bet. Online casinos offer a variety of games so they can appeal to all types of players. The variety in online casinos is incomparable to land-based casinos.
Online gambling changes
The pandemic came at a critical time for the online gambling industry. In a decision by the United States Supreme Court, sports betting was legalized in 2018. In 2019, it inspired changes in legislation. There were new guidelines regarding the taxation of sports betting, and the operation of online casinos.
Being the first year since the creation of these legislations, 2020 was expected to be a great year for the industry. The closure of land-based casinos, reduced gambling opportunities, and cancelation of big sporting events tested these expectations, especially at the beginning of the pandemic.
Most states saw a decline in revenue from land-based casinos but a significant improvement in online gambling sites. New Jersey, for example, closed its land-based casinos in mid-March. That month, revenue dropped by 61.7 percent. However, the revenue from online gambling revenues improved by 65.7 percent. Pennsylvania saw a decline in land-based casino gambling, and an increase in revenue from online sites as well.
Will players go back to land-based casinos?
Pennsylvania and New Jersey have become the most important online betting markets in the United States. Their revenue has cushioned the entire industry during the pandemic. Players have now become accustomed to playing online. They are unlikely to go back to land-based casinos.
Online casinos have to keep up the good work to retain their customers. They have to focus on simulating the excitement of playing at real casinos. Other ways to attract online players include the use of bonuses and promotions, and high-quality customer service.
Challenges for online gambling sites
Even though more people visited online betting sites during the pandemic, sports betting sites suffered. Many sporting events were canceled or postponed and fans had few options. Fans had to find alternative opportunities for gambling.
The absence of live sporting events pushed customers to other betting options. The popularity of eSports improved as participants do not have to come in contact with each other. Tournaments like NBA 2K20 and FIFA 2020 attracted big audiences during the pandemic.
What does the future hold?
Even though online casinos thrived during the pandemic, their future remains uncertain. Will the results last? That is a question that experts have not been able to answer yet. The gambling industry is still struggling with the decline in revenue from the pandemic and many people have lost their jobs.
The effects felt on the tourism and hospitality industries are likely to have a knock-on effect on the gambling industry. If people are relying on governments and not going to work, they don’t have the money to gamble online.
The increase in online gambling may not be sustainable if restrictions are not lifted completely. Despite the doubts, online casinos continue doing well even though some land-based casinos are re-opening.