Online Gambling Expected To Surge Amidst Sports Slowdown
At this moment in time, history is being made.
I don’t expect to find anyone who can adequately paint the picture of the sheer impact that Coronavirus has had on the entire world. The only word that my brain scrambles to when looking for an adjective is “biblical”, a word usually reserved to single fish feasts and pairs exotic animals boarding a cruise ship.
But here we are, in 2020, with a world in complete standstill. Of the chaos, lockdowns, and self-quarantines that we’ve seen make the headlines; it’s the cancellation of all major sports events that have a huge question mark above the heads of many.
Although a few weeks (or months at worst) of missed sporting events might not seem like the most pressing of issues, especially for those with sick loved ones, it’s still an issue and a huge problem for those in the gaming industry.
With literally billions of dollars in lost revenue expected in what could be the worst timed pandemic for the gambling industry, the future of the bookmakers, gambling sites and future of online gaming is uncertain.
But one trend that we’re expecting to see is a surge in the number of bettors turning to casino games to scratch the itch that sports betting used to satisfy.
The untimely execution of sports betting
It seems that every single sporting event for the foreseeable future has been canceled and with the recent news of both Canada and Australia withdrawing from the Olympic Games scheduled for late July, the problem is expected to stretch a little longer than just a couple of weeks.
One man that knows of the issue all too well is Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill, a UK based betting house who joked: “I told a couple of our IT guys to put on fencing suits and we could stream it,” before continuing “Obviously I’m kidding, but this is all we’re doing: trying to find content for people to bet on.”
Asher’s statement, hinting of a disaster about to unfold, is warranted with William Hill’s takings on the weekend beginning March 14th topping just 20 percent of the usual. But this is just the tip of the iceberg and with March famed for huge revenue in the gambling industry, it’s a horror story for bookmakers.
The first three days of the men’s tournament of March Madness alone, one of the largest betting events in Q1, reportedly equals the amount wagered on the Super Bowl, something that Asher is fully aware of, stating: “Cancellation of March Madness was a real punch in the gut in our industry.”
But a quick glance back to the sporting calendar doesn’t exactly spark joy with the Premier League postponed, as well as the beginning of baseball, the Masters and high-stakes NBA basketball all scheduled (and now postponed) to follow March Madness. Asher continued to voice his concerns with sports betting, stating: “Don’t let anyone tell you we’re close to replacing what we’re losing. It’s not dollar for dollar on darts to basketball. That’s like the difference between the New York Yankees and Little League.”
Is it possible to replace sports betting?
For one form of wagering to entirely replace sports betting during its unexpected off-season is the tallest of tasks.
Partner at the gambling research and consulting firm “Eilers and Krejcik”, Chris Grove is a man whose ear is closer to the action than most others and, like many others, is somewhat uncertain in the unmarked territory that we’re wading into. “I don’t know that there’s an obvious substitute for sports betting”
However, Grove did add a suggestion to what the industry is to witness: “Some will find casino games, some will find games that have some element of sports, but it’s not clear to me that there is a product that’s relevant to enough sports bettors to soak up any material amount of that now unmet demand.”
What options are bettors given?
With sports betting down the drain for the foreseeable future, the unmet demand for wagering is likely to filter down three main pathways.
Online casino games
A natural progression for many bettors is to make their way into the alternative sections of bookmakers sites, namely online casino games.
Although not a direct substitute, players that filter into the casino sections of the sites are likely to set up camp there whilst the storm blows over and sports service resumes. But it’s not just sports fans that we’re likely to see arrive to play online, with the closure of casinos globally, frequent visitors are also expected to turn to online play to get their fix.
With everything from classic table games to video slots and countless other options eagerly waiting for new players, the pull of the online casino is likely to prove powerful in the coming weeks.
Online poker rooms are another viable option for bettors to spend their time with a game of strategy much closer related to sports betting than the level of risk associated with casino games.
Although we may have seen a peak in poker back in the early 2000s, experts have been predicting a comeback of the card-based skill game in recent years. With the majority of the world constrained to their homes and with sports betting out for the count, it might be time for the resurrection of poker.
E-sports and virtual sports
However, the most closely related wagering option comes in e-sports and virtual sports offered by a number of sportsbooks globally.
We expect resistance in bettors turning to the virtual alternatives of their favorite sports, although with very little aligning quite as well as the digital sports, it might be the final push required for e-sports and virtual sports to make the mainstream.
It’s an exciting time for online gambling regardless of how you spin it.
The traffic is expected to surge in online gambling in the coming weeks and months thanks to the sports slowdown and global casino closures, but where the sports bettors go is up for debate.
It’s most likely that players will filter to online casino games, online poker and e-sports/virtual sports, but it what ratios we cannot possibly predict.
Only time will tell and it’s a story we’re excited to hear.