Here’s how betting and gaming have been affected by the pandemic

Expect new ways and forms of gaming

Many things have changed in the world, including the way we do even the simplest of things. The way we meet people, the way we purchase products, even the way we bet on our favourite sports teams has been altered. Let's rewind back to the 23 of March 2020, when all non-essential establishments and everything in between was closed. This happened across the globe, as the world stood still and the rest is history.

Some sports events were cancelled, and the rest were being hosted behind closed doors, with no fans or audiences being able to attend events. The small bookmakers that were left had to close their doors. When taking a look at the likes of GVC Holdings, at the end of June 2020, they published their business stats for the first six months of the year. Would you be surprised to find out that they had experienced a 50% in their UK bookmakers market and net gaming revenue (NGR)? This was all a consequence of the closure of land-based UK bookmakers across the United Kingdom.

We have seen new UK bookmakers launch in the last couple of months, however the profit margin was halted with the stoppage of sporting events across the globe. One of the major betting events of 2020 was deemed to be the Premier League in the United Kingdom, along with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Premier League suffered a great blow when all the sports in the UK were cancelled due to the ever growing number of infections. 

Whilst many did not agree with the overall decision, Liverpool were named the winners, even when major games were still yet to be played. The Olympic Games were cancelled, afterall, with most of the sporting events cancelled, why should athletes from all over the world meet up and compete? Would it have been an even bigger risk to allow the games to go ahead?

Another factor that has contributed to less gambling being done is the ban of credit card usage for gambling purposes that came into force on the 14th of April 2020. Let’s be frank here, not many people who gamble own an e-wallet, and e-wallets seem to be the way forward in terms of funding one’s online gambling accounts. Some more bad news lies in the fact that the Gambling and Betting Activities industry’s revenue is expected to fall further in 2021, with a 27% decline that in figures is all about 11.1 Billion GBP.

New ways and forms of gambling

The Grand National, the Premier League, the closure of land based casinos has had both operators and also gamblers going back to the drawing board and finding news ways and means on how to make it. The UK alone contributes 75% of their sports betting revenue to the football market, and when this was abruptly halted in March, new ways of gambling had to be quickly launched and marketed to satisfy the gamblers itch to play or gamble.

Established gambling sites both sportsbooks and casinos, soon went back to see ways and means on how to offer esports, and if they did not, they found ways and means to include this in their product offering. When sports events were cancelled, new bookmakers got very creative and started offering betting options that include, when a new vaccine for Covid-19 would be launched, who would be the next US president, and even when the pandemic would end and governments would lift lockdowns.  When the Formula One was cancelled earlier throughout the year, the marketing got creative and launched a Virtual Grand Prix in March. To say the least, e-sports and virtual sports saw a rise since sporting events were cancelled, and they still seem to be one of the go to betting options currently available. The UK gambling Commission's data suggest that e-sports betting has increased by 2,922% in March 2020, recording a 1.5 Million increase in Revenue.  During April 2020 a further increase of 124% was recorded and a further 36% increase in May 2020.

If we take a look if lockdowns have seen the birth of new gamblers, the truth is, not really. In an April 2020 YouGov survey, only 0.20 % of adults taking the survey advised that they have stated gambling.  When asked what type of games this players were indulging in for some fun, the most popular games seemed to be the simple games that will tell you if you win with no goals and tasks in between. Slot machines and even scratch cards have increased in popularity, as players sought new ways and means to get instant fun, instant mood boosters, and quick wins. Poker also seemed to be a fan favourite amongst players.

What about post lockdown, have things changed?

It somehow seemed like an episode out of ‘Walking Dead’ when we all emerged from lockdown lacking Vitamin D but happy to be free and out in the world. Question is, now that establishments have been opening again, and countries have eased lockdowns and restrictions, will online gambling suffer or will new bookmakers keep flourishing and recording growth?

World economists seem to have a common goal and vision and expect that the online gambling market will continue to grow even further. The UKGC expects that the GGY from remote gaming will increase by 115% to a whopping 217.5 Million GBP and will continue to see growth even through 2021. Sports have resumed and some fans (although with restricted amounts) are even allowed to attend sporting events.  Other real time sports events have also resumed but still not allowing fans to attend any matches or games. Having said that, as a punter, you can always follow the matches online at new bookmaker sites and bet along the way.

Betting throughout April, May and June has shifted to new bookmakers, and the Gambling Commission advised that the biggest ever average of GGR was indeed recorded post lockdown. Yet, when it comes to sports betting, and events such as the Grand National being cancelled, it is very much expected that the horse racing niche will not record good figures.  The lack of spectators and the cancelling of events has left a trail of despair in sporting events and at the gambling world, and to make sure that everyone feels safe coming back to enjoy their favourite sport, many events have issued recovery plans.  Let’s take for example the Horseracing Association in the Uk, they have launched a nine point Racing Recovery Plan, that will see fans returning to the races, in a safe fashion and still promoting a social distaning approach. Whilst it is key to have spectators at sporting events, some may never return unless they are 100% safe that they will be in a safe space and will not get sick from attending an event.

Another factor that has finally boosted new bookmakers in their venture to keep afloat is the return of the Premier League and the launch of the 2020 - 21 season.  On the other hand, if hopefully by 2021 we will be able to enjoy both the Uefa Euro Championship and also the Olympic Games, the revenue from gaming is expected to increase.  This of course all depends on 2021, a vaccine and also further lockdowns post a cruel 2020 Coronavirus infected Winter.  But as things stand today, we are hopeful for the 2021 sporting season, and just hope for all our sakes that it will go ahead.

If there is one market that we feel will continue growing further in 2021, it is the esports world.  We did mention earlier that esports has gained momentum through the months, and we expect that it will continue being a top betting online destination.  When before we used to bet weeks and months in advance on games, gamblers nowadays prefer to wait to see if the event will be cancelled, in between they bet on esports, as that is the only way to be secure about betting. The rest might all be cancelled, yet again. In the meantime, product owners will work hand in hand with new bookmakers to bring you great technology and online games that will always place your safety first, health and also social distancing measures.  Things we all crave in a pandemic.

Do we envisage any obstacles on the horizon?

We can all agree that problematic gambling has been a major issue in the UK, with the parliament wanting to implement measures to mitigate risks.  One of these include placing the 2 GBP limit on fixed odds betting.  This measure has helped the punter very much, and has also placed some halts to the ever growing issue on gambling addictions. On the other hand, many new bookmakers and even established ones have to take the drastic decision of closing their doors and seeking new business ventures.  Let’s rewind to August 2020, where gamnling giant William Hill announced that due to this measure, they had taken the decision to close down 119 gambling establishments owned by the company.  In this new world, the demand of an online offering is far more important than the one where gamblers head to the corner betting shop.  New Bookmakers that failed to adopt, soon had to close down their doors for good.

MPs fighting problem gambling and also pledging to eradicate gambling addictions plan to impose more restrictions when it comes to gambling. The fixed stakes and also the credit card usage for gambling purposes were just the starters in their crusade. Moving forward, there are many proposals to ban completely the advertising of gambling for specific times during the day, and even hoping not to have gambling brands present as sponsorships.

As we move ahead in 2021, hoping for a better future and a glimmer of hope for both established and new bookmakers, we hope for a brighter tomorrow. Online gambling is the way forward, and the quicker operators adapt to new ways of doing things, the quicker they will see growth and flourish.

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