The COVID-19 crisis has hurt the gambling industry and now big sports betting brands may look to their online casinos to help them weather the storm.

Zoltan Tundik

COVID-19 has shaken up the world. No one and no business has been left unaffected by the virus, and that includes the betting industry. Land-based casino and betting shops have especially felt the impact of the novel coronavirus, which has forced these establishments to close to help stop the spread of the disease. Even the biggest sports betting brands in the UK have suffered online and offline from the wide scale suspension, postponement or cancellation of major sporting events.

There’s no question that as far as the gambling industry is concerned, brick and mortar betting shops and casinos have taken the hardest hit, with one of the worst cases being in Nevada, which shut down every casino on its famous Las Vegas strip back in mid-March. Nevada depends on tourism more than any other U.S. state and is used to catering to tens of millions of visitors annually.

Unemployment rates are expected to go up by a minimum of 30% in the state, according to the Nevada Resort Association. This has left many to wonder and worry if Vegas’ big names like Wynn Resorts, MGM Resorts, and Sand Corporation will survive the virus’ economic impact, even with help from the financial relief plan.

That said, the closures caused by the coronavirus have been felt across the industry. For instance, the impact on big groups like GVC has resulted in the company taking steps to do what it can to alleviate the strain that has been placed on its operations. Like other companies, GVC has been working hard to lower costs and re-prioritize activity to preserve free cash while making sure its customers continue to be able to enjoy great experiences. Among these re-prioritisations has been reducing the amount spent on sports content, online sports marketing, and trading costs.


Even online Sportsbook is not Immune to Coronavirus

Naturally, the online gambling industry has a massive advantage over its land-based counterparts. No one needs to social distance online and gambling can be enjoyed safely from home 24/7 via a computer or mobile, whether one is self-isolating or in full quarantine. However, in spite of this fact, online sportsbooks continue to find it a challenge to make the most of the internet advantage.

With no active mainstream sports, online bookies have been forced to fill the void with more emphasis on the virtual world of sports, including animated versions of major horse races like the Grand National, which was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Virtual Grand National, like other virtual races, was a computer-simulated race. It included virtual spectators and virtual ambulances that followed the runners and riders around the courses.


Beyond virtual sports, digital bookmakers have also placed greater focus on eSports as well as other lesser known events. Still, even with the focus on these other events, all online bookmakers have seen a dramatic decline in depositors and increased churn rates because it is simply far too difficult to retain players when the major sports betting markets are at a standstill.

Many of the big names gambling operators have watched the value of their shares suffer from the COVID-19 outbreak. Some of these include:

  • William Hill shares have dropped by more than half since the 21st of February 2020
  • GVC Holdings (owner of Ladbrokes Coral) has seen a drop in share prices by more than 20%
  • Flutter Entertainment (owner of Paddy Power Betfair) has seen its share value tank by over 15%

Sportsbooks May Shift their Focus to Online Casinos

Online casinos, which offer online slots, virtual table, and card games, scratch cards, live casino games, etc. are in much better shape than their sportsbook cousins and that’s because they don’t depend on sports or other major events to continue carrying on with business as usual.

As such, many bookies that also offer a casino platform may consider cross-selling their online casino products to their existing sports betting customers in an attempt to recoup some of the money they’ve lost. This tactic could work as bored housebound punters, who previously focused solely on sports, can be keener to engage in casino entertainment until they can bet on their favorite football matches or horse races again.

Since March, COVID-19 has shut down most economies and sent more than a billion people into lockdown. Like many other businesses considered non-essential, land-based gambling establishments have closed their doors until the outbreak and restrictions ease. While only time will tell how well gambling operators will fare once the worst of the pandemic has run its course, for now, all they can do is focus on their online operations and survive as best they can. For some, online casinos could potentially provide the life raft they need to stay afloat.

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