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The Current Effects On The Online Gambling Industry


While traditional, ‘brick and mortar’ casinos and sports betting shops have experienced a significant drop in business due to social distancing and lockdown measures, online casinos and other gambling websites have thrived. In fact, online gambling is one of the few industries, alongside video streaming sites, food delivery services, and online gaming, and some online retailers, that’s actually benefitted from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In a new report, Online Gambling Global Market Report 2020-30: COVID-19 Growth and Change, compiled by The Business Research Company, the market for online gambling, worldwide, is expected to grow 13.2% this year, from $58.9 billion in 2019 to $66.7 billion in 2020.

Huge Increase in Traffic to Online Casino During Coronavirus Pandemic

This forecast is supported by recent consumer behaviour. Google Trends, for instance, reported as much as an 85% increase, between mid-March and mid-April, for search terms like ‘online casino’.

There are several reasons for the increase in traffic to online casinos and other online gambling sites. Firstly, with lockdown measures in place and people being on furlough from work, consumers are spending far more time indoors. With most of their regular leisure activities currently unavailable, people are looking for different ways to entertain themselves in general – with online gambling being a viable option for many.

Secondly, with no sports to bet on (though the German Bundesliga and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) have just returned), consumers that regularly enjoyed placing wagers on sporting events had to find a new pastime. And lastly, on a similar note, are people who are unable to visit land-based casinos and have opted to play their favourite games, such as roulette, slot machines, blackjack, pachinko, and baccarat, online instead.

A good example of this can be seen in Australia, which has a thriving, legal gambling industry that sees them bet in lavish casinos in larger cities like Sydney, Darwin and Melbourne, as well in smaller gaming lounges and pubs on ‘pokie’ machines. With such an established betting culture, it’s no surprise that online betting had increased by as much as 67%, in March and April, while still hovering around 60% at the time of writing.

Meanwhile, in Europe, online casinos have also seen a significant increase in traffic, particularly in countries like the UK, Spain, Germany, and Belarus (where it recently became legal). In fact, online casinos in Germany, as well as the Netherlands, can anticipate further growth as gambling regulators seek to legalise online casinos by 2021.

Massive Increase in Online Poker Signups During Lockdown

Online poker has also seen significant increases in participation during lockdown. As with online casinos, this is partly down to players that are accustomed to visiting physical casinos, or participating in sports betting, looking for an alternative. However, online poker also greatly benefits from the social aspect: getting to interact with other players.

In fact, in support of this idea, US-based platform Global Poker, reported a 43% increase in the use of online poker sites in the United States since lockdowns came into effect. Most notably, this includes an incredible 255% increase in first-time poker players.

This has led to positive knock-on effects, as more people playing overall means more games to enter – and an increase in winnings. This has especially benefited experienced players, who’ve had an advantage over the high proportion of new participants. For instance, the World Series of Poker’s (WSOP) Super Circuit Series, a replacement for a scheduled live event in Las Vegas, was about to increase its prize money from $1.24m to $4m after more players signed up than expected.

The Rise of Virtual and eSports Betting

Now, although sports betting has seen its revenue plummet, as a result of sports leagues around the world being cancelled, there is still some life left in this segment of the gambling market – as the result of some innovative solutions.

For a start, there’s been the switch to virtual sports, with online betting sites hosting their own simulated horse racing, greyhound racing, and even football events. Though the CGI versions of sports haven’t captured punters imaginations in the same way, betting sites can hold them more frequently than real-life sporting events, with a new opportunity to bet on another race or football match every few minutes.

The best example of this is the Virtual Grand National, a computer-generated version of one of the world’s biggest horse racing events, which takes place in the UK each April. Now, while a virtual version of the race has taken place since 2017, it was previously only used as a simulation to predict the winner. This is the first year it has replaced the real race.

While this year’s Grand National didn’t generate the £100s of millions it usually does, it still raised over £2.6 million for the UK’s national health service (NHS). Following this success, maybe other huge horse races around the world, like the Kentucky Derby and Melbourne Cup, will follow suit, instead of being forced to cancel like the Dubai World Cup.

Similarly, with a lack of real sports to place wagers on, there has been a massive increase in betting on eSports. In light of leagues like the NBA, the EPL, and La Liga ending their seasons prematurely, people have opted to place bets on NBA 2k20 and Football Manager. Most notably, however, is that the Nevada Gaming Control has approved betting on League of Legends (for both the North American series and European Championships), Overwatch, Call of Duty, Dota 2, and Counterstrike – with more popular games sure to follow.

Although some forms of online gambling, such as online casinos and online poker platforms have benefited greatly from lockdown measures during the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s likely that their success will continue even as things return to ‘normal’. Even when lockdown has ended, whether it’s safety concerns over the perceived health risks of being around lots of strangers, or the ease, variety, and convenience that online casino’s offers, some people still won’t want to visit traditional casinos – and online casinos will be the ones to benefit.

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