Countries around the world have been locking down in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic impact of the lockdown has yet to be fully assessed, but what we already know is that hundreds of thousands of people across the globe have had salary decreases or lost their jobs altogether.
With salary cuts and financial stress at an all-time high, you’d expect that spend on leisure and luxuries like retail therapy or casino games would have decreased during the pandemic. However, March saw a 7.7% increase in mobile shopping in the US alone and online casinos experienced massive increases in revenue in the US and other countries.
Let’s take a look into which countries experienced higher online casino traffic, and who was responsible for it.
The rise of online platforms
With the world in lockdown, it was obvious that physical store locations, pubs, restaurants, and brick-and-mortar casinos would struggle to stay afloat. This was a clear cut opportunity for businesses to shift to an online space if they could do so, and a very challenging few months for those that couldn’t.
Online casino games weren’t the only popular form of entertainment during lockdown, though: industries such as online dating, online learning, live webcam videos and adult movies, insurance, and streaming platforms all recorded exponential growth at the same time others were going bankrupt.
Various online resources reported that US e-commerce penetration rose from 16% to 17% within the first eight weeks of quarantine in America. Adobe reported that online sales within the wine and spirits industry climbed 74% during the same period. Major retailers like Amazon, Target, Walmart, and Best Buy also recorded massive increases in their online traffic and sales.
How did the casino world adapt?
Las Vegas is slowly but surely awakening from its unprecedented COVID-19 lockdown and huge numbers of people are once again descending on the city to get their casino kicks. But how did land-based casinos fare during the lockdown, and were they able to adapt to keep afloat?
Many brick-and-mortar casinos already had an online platform, even if their main source of income was from their land-based establishments. However, with the closure of casinos all over the world and the need to stay indoors, land-based casinos experienced losses of up to 95% just for the month of March.
Those that didn’t have online platforms had to develop them quickly, and those that were already established in the online sphere had to add new casino games and tournaments to keep the unprecedented volume of players entertained.
As lockdown went into full force, online traffic began to grow at a rapid rate. Gambling sites reported hundreds of thousands of new visitors to their sites and an increase in the amount of time frequent visitors spent on their sites.
Poker rooms, in particular, were a popular choice during lockdown. Live online casino games were some of the most popular, which doesn’t come as a surprise given that many players had been isolated and had limited options for interacting with people.
Although a gradual decline in online gambling is expected as land-based casinos open, it’s interesting that the online gambling industry saw a bigger jump during the pandemic than even the highest spikes over the last three years.
Who was responsible for the increase in numbers?
With sports all over the world largely canceled and a lack of betting options for sports bettors, it would make sense that they move to another form of online gambling. However, only a small percentage came down to this demographic.
The massive increase in numbers was almost entirely down to players that usually frequent land-based casinos, but were unable to during the lockdown. The entirety of Las Vegas and all other brick-and-mortar casinos shut down during the pandemic, and as such, these players simply resorted to online platforms, usually from their preferred land-based establishments. This means that hundreds of thousands of regular casino players, from poker fans to slot machine lovers, all transferred their business online.
Which countries saw the biggest increases?
When land-based casinos shut their doors, the industry stood every chance of collapsing if online alternatives weren’t able to take advantage of players unable to go into physical establishments. In some countries like Latvia and Austria, there were serious concerns from the government that gambling addiction would increase during the lockdown and stringent measures were implemented to cap players from spending too much time online.
However, other countries saw the much-needed lifeline for the industry and adapted to allow growth. Belarus and Armenia are two such countries. Belarus finally officially passed the legalization of online gambling, and Armenia put their forthcoming online gambling restrictions on hold.
The countries which have the best conditions for growth and saw an upturn during the COVID-19 pandemic include:
Other countries were determined to ensure that their citizens didn’t descend into a lockdown-induced gambling frenzy and put strict measures in place. Latvia is probably the most extreme example of this, where the government completely shut down online gambling, as well as creating a job stalemate in the industry, which saw thousands of people lose their jobs.
Armenia put a hold on the new gambling restrictions expected to come into play during the pandemic, but the government sent stern warnings to citizens about gambling habits. It’s expected the country’s restrictions will come into place once the lockdown measures ease post-COVID-19.
COVID-19 player numbers: Are they here to stay?
The COVID-19 pandemic has made us reassess a lot of aspects of our society and, frankly, it seems some will never be the same again. The crisis has added pressure to an already unstable world economy, with the middle class bearing the brunt of job losses globally. There are certainly split opinions on whether the current number of online gamblers can be sustained after lockdown ends and land-based casinos open up again.
Although there is going to be an expected drop off in traffic once people start to leave their houses again, there is every chance that online gambling will remain more popular than ever before. People have become more conscious of crowded spaces, some have found that they enjoy the comfort of gambling from home, and others will simply want to save the money that they would ordinarily spend on fuel, food, tips, and drinks at land-based casinos.
Importantly, online gambling sites have also become more aware of the huge potential of remote gambling and have adjusted their post-COVID-19 marketing strategies to reflect this. Meaningful bonus programs for online users could also go a long way towards retaining online numbers. There are a number of factors that are going to influence online gambling in the near future, and a state’s attitude toward the industry and the regulations that they put in place will also have a major impact on the industry’s continued success.
It’s going to be a while before we can measure whether the online gambling industry has come out of the pandemic better than it went in. What we do hope though, is that many new players have learned how enjoyable it is to play casino online games in a safe and secure way.
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