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The Impact of the 2020 Global Pandemic on Online Gambling

The global pandemic has had far-reaching impacts on everyone’s lives and institutions. When you can’t go outside without the risk of endangering yourself or others, life has to adapt to the new set of circumstances. One thing impacted in both positive and negative ways, depending on your perspective, was online gambling.

In order to battle the spreading pandemic, many governments around the world issued lockdowns. They made laws to prevent social gatherings, which meant no casinos, horse tracks, bars, and other similar places one might go to gamble. Even as these restrictions have slowly been lifted, many people have chosen to make the conscious effort to not go outside to gamble so as not to further spread the virus.

This encouragement to stay at home has affected online gambling in a few ways, and to fully explore how, we must first understand what happened inside the gambling industry mechanism.

The Pandemic Effects on Sports and Sociocultural Activities

A pandemic spread by airborne contact, when a person stands near an infected person or touches something they have touched, does not really allow for social activities and sports, at least not without risking their lives. 

During the initial spread of the virus, almost all sporting events were cancelled. Even the 2020 Olympics had to be postponed until 2021. World-class tournaments like Wimbledon, basketball, and rugby are all postponed until early 2021. 

Seeing a large portion of offline gambling lose revenue due to the lack of accessible land-based casinos and strict quarantine laws, the entire industry has moved to the online gambling market. In Italy, a 59% drop in offline gambling revenue was recorded in March. In the United Kingdom, a survey showed that most gambling operators had their income decline by at least 50% during the lockdown period. The same was recorded in other European countries.

However, this ban was temporary, and more and more sports leagues resumed games in the second half of the year, but live spectacles and public gatherings were either illegal or not sanctioned. Now we’re going back to most sports games and only banning some conditional games, but most people don’t want to go out or can’t go out to bet on them. Thus, we had to find alternatives to gambling in real life.

Gambling During the Pandemic

The initial suspension of sports betting led to a decline in online gambling. Eventually, bookmakers who could not be in real life switched to betting on online platforms. And those who were already betting online, unable to bet on sports, began to play other types of games.

In March, data from the British Gambling Commission showed an increase in the popularity of online gambling games such as slots, poker, and virtual games with steady monthly growth. Similar growth has been reported in Canada, but not in some countries such as Finland and Denmark. 

This online migration may not be universal, but it is quite common in some areas. The biggest indicator of how online gambling has been fueled by the global pandemic is how the online gambling market has grown and how corporations have taken advantage of it.

The Online Gambling Market

Online gambling was already gaining momentum as online betting sites grew in popularity and sophistication, with more and more companies taking advantage of this growth.

However, with the global pandemic preventing people from leaving their homes to gamble, it became abundantly clear that an alternative was needed. So some casinos moved their operations online and waited for the influx of gamblers. 

According to Global poker research, The US witnessed a 255% increase in first-time online poker players since the coronavirus lockdown began. This growth is not unique to the US either, as many online betting sites have reported increased revenue and an increased number of customers during the pandemic.

This is reflected in the size of the online gambling market, growing from $58.96 billion in 2019 to $66.7 billion in 2020, projected to reach $92.86 billion in 2023. 

This growth has not gone unnoticed by governments and gambling associations, which have responded in somewhat unpredictable ways.

In particular, Belgium imposed weekly limits on gambling, France discouraged the use of incentives to attract new players, and Latvia took a straightforward approach and banned all online gambling from March until all deterrence measures were lifted.

Gambling companies such as Loto-Quebec, the UK Betting and Gambling Council, and the Lithuanian Gambling Association have all voluntarily decided to stop promoting their games in the media and refrain from advertising further into the containment period.

The impact of this pandemic on online gambling has been a rollercoaster; there have been its declines, with the abolition of the sport, its upswings with the migration of gamblers to other gambling options. But it’s not quite over yet; the recession expected from this pandemic could cause profits for online casinos to fall again. Only the future can tell exactly what will happen to this industry and what gambling tech trends will appear in the next few months.