COVID-19 was declared a global emergency on the 11th of March 2020. Since then it has affected the lives of everyone and changed the lives of some. The biggest change for many people is practicing social distancing, which severely limits the ability to be social, one of human’s basic psychological needs. Reports indicate that 74% of people have felt prolonged loneliness during the last few months with 40% of people reporting their disposable income has decreased. Due to the above-mentioned reasons, as well as others, that 25% of people have said their mental health has been negatively affected. Schools, entertainment venues and sports leagues have been closed or suspended around the world. Nearly 100,000 businesses that were shut down in America alone won’t be opening for business again. Because of COVID, twice as many people are now working from home compared to those at work. The pandemic has caused half of the world’s population to lose their jobs. Many sectors are affected by this, including the gambling sector. Thousands of casinos worldwide and in the US, in states such as New Jersey, Maryland, and Nevada, temporarily closed at the beginning of the lockdown, with an estimated 60,000 Vegas casino employees losing their jobs.
Although it isn’t all doom and gloom for casinos, the mobile gambling sector has seen record highs during the worldwide lockdowns. With regular punters unable to visit their favorite casinos they have turned to the ever-convenient online casinos. Many of these online providers have put together deposit bonuses and promotions for old and new punters alike to try and entice them, for example this guide by 6takarakuji breaks down some of the popular ones in Japan.
Changes in casinos
Many changes have been implemented in casinos around the world. It is mandatory to go through a temperature check at the door and to wear a face mask. The amount of table games, and player positions at these games, have been reduced. There are now plexiglass screens separating the players from each other and the dealer. Smoking is no longer allowed in most casinos and smoking areas have been severely reduced. Sports-related gambling has reduced dramatically since major sports events worldwide have been canceled or postponed. The largest changes are those in profits, especially regions like Macau where gambling and tourism are inseparable. Macau has seen visitor numbers drop by 84% at the beginning of the year compared to last year, leaving casino operators bleeding $15 million in daily expenses. COVID-19 testing facilities have been approved for six casino operators in the region, with patrons being requested to provide a nucleic acid test certificate to prove they do not have the virus. British casinos have even offered to stop selling alcohol to avoid enforced closures which could lead to many jobs being lost.
Online and mobile gambling
All of these changes have led many people to avoid land-based casinos and start gambling online. Because of the instant accessibility of online casinos, while allowing players to maintain COVID-19 precautions such as social distancing, online gambling has seen a massive surge in popularity. Bet365, the most popular online casino in the UK, had 20.5 million people playing in April this year. Similar websites such as SkyBet and William Hill also saw an increase in the number of gamblers. More than 5.1 million players tried playing online slots for the first time due to being in their homes, and around 7.7 million people tried their hand at online poker. However, it should be noted that a report indicated that 60% of people had decreased their participation in at least one form of gambling since the first 2 months of the year. One form of gambling that has seen a definitive increase in players is mobile gambling. Before COVID-19, mobile casinos have been gaining in popularity from 2017-2019. Now however, some countries have seen a near 100% increase in userbases.
What can we expect to see during Q4 and beyond?
It is difficult to predict what to expect in the coming months. Since sports-related betting isn’t possible, it has been speculated that we will see an increase in other forms of gambling virtual sports betting. With the demand for real casinos and the emergence in popularity of online casinos, many gambling institutions have started focusing on Virtual Reality Casinos. This might have an effect on the numbers of players returning to land-based casinos when this pandemic is over. 62% of younger gamblers saying they will return to casinos again compared to only 40% of elderly gamblers; the future is uncertain for slot machines as the younger gamblers (47%) said they would play. However, experts say the online and mobile gambling industry will continue to grow so we might see more providers expanding their online options.