eGaming increases during and after COVID-19
In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world with a fury, holding nothing back as over 100 million people were infected, and 2.5 million people have died from the deadly virus. These numbers continue to grow as the pandemic is still an issue today. Almost every industry was affected by the onset of the pandemic, including the gambling industry. Around the world, casinos and other gambling venues shut down for weeks and even months, depending on how bad the virus was in the region.
While the pandemic shut down the land-based industry, it boosted the iGaming market. In areas where online gambling is available, it led to increased player traffic, both at the beginning of the pandemic and even through today. Players were unable to visit land-based venues, so they shifted to online casinos for entertainment. In many areas, online gaming sites reached new revenue records due to the number of players signing in and playing slots and table games.
Migration to Online Gambling?
So why the migration to online gambling? How much has online gambling increased? For the most part, players shifted to iGaming due to the convenience factor and desire for entertainment. In many regions worldwide, casinos were shut down for long periods of time, and citizens were on lockdown. There was nowhere to go and nothing to do.
Being unable to leave your home leaves plenty of empty time to kill. Players who would normally visit a land-based casino frequently would log on to gaming sites for entertainment. Even after casinos began opening back up, players were continuing to play online instead. There is no risk of catching the coronavirus from online play, while casinos still are a risk factor.
Even with health and safety protocols in place, some players still do not feel comfortable going to a physical location and playing games where others have been for fear of germs. Visiting a casino after COVID is almost unheard of, depending on who you ask. However, some people are still perfectly fine going about life normally, while others prefer to stay at home.
Around the world, casinos were shutting down and reopening, then shutting down again. This is another reason players have leaned on iGaming. In Canada, gambling facilities were closed down based on tier levels. Gambling in Canada was limited or even non-existent at one time at land-based venues due to COVID-19. In Ontario, Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Limited are just now reopening after another closure from late last year. Casinos like Gateway Casinos Thunder Bay are limited in capacity and have certain protocols due to the virus.
However, players in the country have access to Canadian online casino sites, making it easy to enjoy games at home. With COVID-19, the virus is spread easily and quickly. Social distancing is recommended, along with mask-wearing when in public. These factors have led to more online gameplay, partially due to players wanting to avoid contact with others and being uncomfortable wearing a mask for long periods of time.
Gambling Behaviors and Risk
With the uptick in online gambling due to COVID-19, there has been growing concern about player risk and health. Players are more confined to their homes, facing unemployment issues, additional stress from fear of the virus, the health of loved ones, and suffering from anxiety and depression.
Online betting is readily available, and some regulators, particularly those in the UK, have taken steps to protect players better due to the increase in gambling. There is a concern that players will bet outside of their means due to unemployment or other financial concerns. Players might feel they can make up for losses by gambling what little they have. It has also been suggested that isolation in the home can lead to gambling addiction as players lean on the casino sites for entertainment.
In Ontario, a study conducted from April 21-28 showed that 54% of those who took part played online casino games during the quarantine. Of the number, 77% were land-based players before the pandemic. Lottery and raffles were the most popular choice among online gamblers surveyed, followed by instant lottery games and slots.
While these players were not seen as being at risk, the study does show that there was a huge increase in online gambling at the time when venues were shut down.
Impact of COVID-19
Professionals in the mental health field say that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people’s behavior worldwide. Concerns have been raised that online behaviors may change or increase, including gambling issues. Players may be more willing to make risky bets during lockdown due to how they feel or react to the pandemic.
Individuals are faced with the virus itself, unemployment, financial strain, anxiety, depression, and a host of other issues that, when coupled with gambling, can be detrimental to well-being and relationships. This is why regulators worldwide have made changes or are in the process of changing regulations to protect players from online gambling harm better.
For the online gambling industry, however, the impact has been good. Players are logging in now more than ever, helping to boost revenues by large percentages. As long as the virus remains a threat, it is expected that online gaming operators will continue to thrive.
The Future of Online Gambling
Right now, the future of online gambling looks bright for both gamers and operators. Players have more choices than ever across the globe as industries are expanding. For operators, the traffic flow is consistent and growing, which means more annual revenues.
As the COVID-19 pandemic is still an issue and more variants have been found, the health crisis will continue. If there are more lockdowns or continued social distancing, it will only help the online gaming industry stick to the internet realm for their slots, table games, and poker. We expect operators to be quite busy handling a steady stream of traffic at online casinos, poker, sportsbooks, and other gaming sites.
COVID-19 has negatively impacted most industries, including business closings, layoffs, or loss of revenues. For the iGaming industry, though, the pandemic has provided a much-needed boost. It has been good for the operators as a revenue driver and great for players, as an outlet for entertainment when everything is confusing, frustrating, or just plain sad. Many players have been thankful to have the outlet of online gambling to cling to for fun and excitement during this trying time.