Online Gambling During Covid-19 – How Did the Industry Fare?
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the gambling was similar to other industries where a mix of physical premises and online sites are prevalent.
Gambling shops in the UK were shutdown throughout the pandemic lockdowns and consumers flocked to the online casinos. For many, they were stuck at home with money and looking for a new outlet, while for others there was a need to avoid socialising. One headwind for the industry was also the lack of sports available with many stadiums shuttered and gamblers missed the presence of the crowds during events. For some, this meant a switch to non-GamStop casinos to capture international events.
Closure of Physical Premises
The Covid-19 pandemic saw the closure of casinos, bars, bingo halls, horse racing, and others, as well as lottery outlets. A suspension of most sporting events also affected the gambling industry worldwide. This meant that activities which generate around 50% of industry income ground to a haly.
One industry that has actually been boosted by the lockdowns has been the online gambling industry. The pandemic led to a in visitors to casino and gambling websites. Many online casino sites added new users, while the regular players also made it a point to play online, creating a shift in the way the gambling industry used to work. In Australia for example, the Australian Gambling Research Centre found that one in three survey participants had signed up for a new online betting account during COVID-19.
GamStop simply require the contact details that were used to setup UK gambling accounts. This allows betting providers to flag any accounts that they have in the person’s name and gambling activities will be frozen.
Alongside the GamStop scheme, the UKGC has also being strict across the gaming industry with further restrictions on license holders in the country and limits on gameplay and marketing activity.
Online Sports Betting
Online betting on real events took the biggest hit with a 55% drop from March to April in 2020.
These figures are for GamStop casinos, and the closure of sporting stadiums and events would have seen some gamblers seeking out non-UK casinos to capture sporting events in nations that had less virus cases and were still running some events.
Activity has started to pick up again and the Grand National horse race saw a 4% boost in active accounts. Many events have opened back up in 2021 with Six Nations rugby and the Euro 2020 tournament being two examples. American sports have also returned, and the summer of 2021 is seeing the NBA basketball and NHL Stanley Cup finals play out. In South America the Copa America tournament has also been running with Argentina and Brazil playing out a star-studded final that will surely draw in punters.
Although economies are more open, there are still many working from home or stuck on the furlough scheme and that is giving support to sports betting.
Games of Chance
In the year to March 2020, slots and casino betting had been on the rise with a 25% year-on-year change and 13% respectively.
In the first month of the UK lockdown, it was casinos that grew by 5%, while slots slowed by -2%. This was likely due to the time spent online and players started to gravitate to longer activities. Virtual betting rose by 44% and poker was up 53%.
Games of chance have a quick turnaround and this was more popular when adults tried to fit in some gambling during a busy schedule, where some may have played on their lunch hour, or on the train home. These games are not as profitable if played over large stretches of time and some looked to areas like poker to pass the hours in the home, with some seeking making a new side income. This trend was also seen with a rush of new retail investors moving into stock market investing.
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 was a move towards casinos not on GamStop. These sites were becoming more popular because of the stricter regulatory clampdown in the UK.
Casinos in the UK are forced to adhere to the GamStop rules and that has seen new measures in place such as the ban on credit card funding, and in-game restrictions such as spin timers. These sites can also provide access to international sports, and it is likely that some were seeking out sporting events that were not affected by the lockdowns. You can find out more information about alternative casinos here.
The UK lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic had a big impact on parts of the gambling industry. The industry followed the trends of other sectors as physical premises were shuttered and sports betting events shut down. This saw a 55% drop in real events betting at UK casinos.
Gambling grew in virtual sports betting and poker as sports betting punters looked for outlets that were similar to their preferred events. Another trend was an increase in players seeking out an alternative betting site to UK events and non-GamStop casinos are popular in this case as some international events were still ongoing in the early stages of the pandemic.
Overall, the UK gambling scene was able to weather the storm and the summer of 2021 has seen a boom in sporting events for punters to get involved again as the economy reopens with England’s run to the Euro 2020 final certain to bring a further boost to the industry.