For every gambling firm losing out on revenue as sporting events, betting shops, and casinos around the globe are locked off due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, there are others who are seeing increased demand for their online services.
As Europe and the USA are now becoming the global hotspots of the infection, with Italy, Spain, and New York among the hardest-hit areas, many millions (if not billions) of people are slowly adjusting to life in social isolation.
With over 300,000 people now infected with the pneumonia-causing disease worldwide and new case numbers growing every day, there’s not much chance of the situation changing any time soon.
And, although we’re almost certainly looking at an economic downturn in the near future, in the short term, many locked down people around the globe are turning to online casinos as a source of entertainment.
More Time at Home—But Keep It Safe
For example, UK-based 888 Holdings reported a 24% rise in share prices on Tuesday the 24th, bucking the market trend. Investor confidence may have been bolstered by the previous day’s press release, which stated that the company is confident a short-term rise in online casino revenue may offset some sports betting losses.
888 is also less reliant on sports betting than many of its competitors, which may also help. As an example, Flutter Entertainment (formerly Paddy Power Betfair) makes 75% of its revenue from sports betting, while at 888, sports wagering is only 16%.
In India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi just announced a 21-day lockdown for the entire country, poker sites and online casinos are also seeing increased demand. Some sites are reportedly 10-20% busier during even off-peak hours, as government measures around the world ramp up in an attempt to keep people at home and stop them from spreading the virus.
However, 888 Holdings warned companies not to be overly optimistic about the global outlook. “888’s vigilance on safe gambling and preventing gambling-related harm is even more important than ever,” they said in a company statement.
UK politicians have already expressed fears that problem gamblers, especially those with mental health issues like anxiety and depression, may be at increased risk during this time of global crisis.
“The group continues to offer its customers support and is proactively communicating with its customers to make them aware of safe gambling tools to limit and control their play,” 888 continued in a statement.
Although, as we reported last week, many US casinos are doing their bit to help tackle the virus pandemic with millions of dollars in donations flowing into relief efforts from the shuttered giants in Las Vegas and elsewhere, not all marketing departments are taking things as seriously.
In Europe, both Flutter Entertainment and Kindred Group (Unibet owners) have had to send warning emails to affiliates after they were caught using the fact that online casinos are safer (and more certain to be open) than physical casinos at the current time as a marketing tactic.
Both giant operators reportedly threatened to immediately cut off any affiliates who include any mention of the coronavirus, quarantines, or any other surrounding issue in their promotions.
Regulators in Holland and the UK also took a dim view of the potential for coronavirus-related sales pitches and promised to fine companies £50,000 ($58,000) if they were caught doing so.
In other troubling news for European operators, new UK chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed that gambling firms would not be eligible for the planned business rates relief for companies that have been forced to close physical stores.
This may send some shares plummeting again, after many (such as William Hill and GVC Holdings) mostly stabilized towards the end of last week after precipitous falls over the previous days.
Many UK gambling firms will feel that they are as deserving of the relief as other UK businesses, with all physical gambling shops and casinos across the UK now completely shut.
“This is a blow to an industry that pays billions in tax and employs 70,000 hardworking, decent people in this country,” said Betting and Gaming Council executive Michael Dugher.