The forced self-isolation of people around the world caused by the Coronavirus pandemic from the first days of quarantine has triggered a lot of discussion in the community about the likely growth of online gambling vertical. However, the extent to which the fears have been justified, whether this indicator is resilient, and the implications for market participants.
Many critics of the online gambling industry, soon after the quarantine measures were introduced, began to focus on the likely vertical growth in self-isolation and the risks associated with problem gambling. The latter has even led to stricter rules for gambling operators in some jurisdictions.
The main argument was that when people were locked up in a difficult economic situation, they could begin to perceive gambling as a way to earn money, not as a form of leisure. And even if the organic attitude to gambling as an entertainment persists, there is a temptation to abuse gambling in the absence of the usual forms of pastime.
The opinion of the authorities regarding the urgent need to introduce special restrictions in Sweden was not shared not only by the market representatives, but also by the agency that controls the industry.
Restrictions of the industry in different countries ranged from the introduction of spending limits to a complete ban on gambling operators, as for example, in Latvia. For more details, please see a separate material. But were there any real reasons for concern? And did the boom that everyone was so afraid of really happen?
If to consider indicators of branch from different corners of the world, the picture will turn out rather motley. Some countries have indeed stated growth, but its scale was quite modest. Therefore it is expedient to consider this aspect in each separate country or on examples of the largest representatives of the world gembling-market.
The most impressive results
British giant – Paddy Power Betfair – reported revenue growth by 15% compared to the same period last year. The company FanDuel – a member of the American market – has stated almost record growth. Revenue of the latter has increased threefold. The company notes that the growth was not caused by the pandemic, but by internal processes in the company, in particular, the merger with another brand and increased market participation. At the same time, the company noted that the growth was due to the revival in the vertical of online poker, not slots or other board games.
In the case of a particular brand, it is appropriate to talk about overcompensating for the losses of sports betting.
However, global indicators are much less iridescent than those outlined above. For example, according to the latest relevant data of analysts from H2 Gambling Capital, the coronavirus pandemic will reduce industry revenues by 19.4%.
If we take the gambling industry as a whole, then taking into account the gap formed by the ground segment, GGR may increase by 1% and reach $62.96 billion. However, the collapse of the market for sports betting is really offset by growth in the segment of online casinos.
The data provided by the Danish gambling regulator shows that the online gambling industry has not improved, and even slightly reduced its performance. For the study was analyzed the period from early March to early May. It is indicative that despite the fact that immediately after the introduction of quarantine measures, growth was indeed observed, its average size was only 2% with a peak of 3% improvement.
Of course, in view of the above, there is no talk about the possibility to compensate for losses in the ground segment. Read more about the market situation here.
La Francaise des Jeux (FDJ), the country’s largest operator, reported revenue cuts of 0.9% in the first quarter of this year. It is telling that the company representatives claim that the growth observed in the first two months was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Starting from May 16, it was noted that the volume of rates was reduced by 60%, while losses in the lottery segment amounted to 40%.
Fintan Costello, Executive Director of Bonus Finder’s affiliate marketing department, said that the number of requests – “online casinos” – has increased in the United States. He also adds that this picture is likely to be seen in most countries with developed industries.
But Richard Skelhorn, founder of BGO and Atemi, says that the growth of 8%, which was stated in his company, can hardly be called a boom. The operator’s representative also makes an amendment that his company has not been affected by sports betting.
Kais Nielander, head of sustainability at the former Swedish gaming monopoly Svenska Spel, believes that the growth recorded at the company is organic and has nothing to do with the pandemic and self-isolation.
He also noted that the gap associated with the downtime of sports betting is not being filled by other verticals, such as online casinos. With regard to the change in the gaming habits of users, the expert also expressed himself rather cautiously, saying that some of the clients are really former bettors, but completely new clients are also joining the games.
At the same time, a representative of Swedish gaming regulator Camilla Rosenberg stressed that when comparing the March figures last year and this year we can see signs of growth in online casinos. However, she notes that these signs can be called early, so it is premature to draw any unequivocal conclusions.
Who’s in the game?
Another interesting discussion topic is that at the expense of which players scale business. For example, Rosenberg believes that the growth is not provided by bettors, and visitors to land-based gambling establishments. Her assumption is based on the fact that the owners of online casinos for years trying to interact with bettors, but only a very low percentage of the latter joined the casino gambling.
More logical from this point of view is the acceleration of the trend in the transition of players from the ground segment to online gambling.
A slightly different view was expressed in our separate material on the change of user habits during quarantine.
If one imagines that the rules of social distance, Zoom meetings, and widespread hand-washing would become a thing of the past, would dubious industry achievements remain?
Nielander notes that the time following the pandemic could be a crisis or even economic disaster. Therefore, it is likely that people will not go back to normal life, but will sharply reduce spending on leisure time. With this in mind, it is highly unlikely that gambling operators will be able to come out of the crisis with improved performance.
However, he focused on another trend, which is also widely known from previous crisis situations – the growth of the vertical with low rates and high profits. In other words, the era after COVID-19 may become a lottery star hour.
But Costello believes that the level of gamblers’ involvement in gambling may decline and fall below the pre-crisis period. The latter will be caused by the need to compete with forms of leisure, which were unavailable due to quarantine.
Ironically, different experts have agreed on the situation in one – most likely, the most stable indicator will be the measures introduced as restrictions in various markets.
We would like to remind you that Lithuanian gambling operators decided not to advertise their products during the pandemic.