In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has pretty much decimated the brick and mortar casino and betting shops worldwide, is there light at the end of the very long tunnel?
I believe the answer is a solid yes, without a doubt. Although there is not yet a vaccine that has been approved for global human consumption there appears to be hope on the horizon that one or more could arrive by the end of 2020. Once immunization and ongoing safety protocols become commonplace travelers should resume visiting integrated resort and sporting destinations and the gaming sector will gradually recover including sports betting and other forms of live entertainment.
Since mid -March the world of sports has not been the same as punters with pent up demand were wagering on table tennis, Korean and Taiwanese baseball, and the somewhat new but fast-growing sector of esports.
However, over the last couple of months sporting events are happening and it appears to be on the road to recovery, even if it’s in a bubble, punters are placing their stakes.
So where is the light and when will we reach it? After speaking with a plethora of operators of casinos and sports betting operations to hear what their plans are for the immediate future and beyond, the consensus seems to echo the same common-sense sentiments. First, we need a vaccine and or treatments that will quell the fear of public interaction, secondly, we need to maintain temperature checking, sanitizing and cleanliness, and most importantly we need to move on with our lives and reopen cautiously.
I feel that is a good start to rebuilding the trust with the public to leave their homes and it is a proper way to handle brick and mortar facilities as sanity is also important and locking people down in their homes will not be the infinite answer. I hope and believe that 2021 will be the year that 2020 started out to be…Prosperous.
With that being said I am a firm believer in the future of online gaming and sports betting more than ever, and I have been an avid supporter since the internet became a reality, it has proven to be entertaining, engaging and most importantly safe with proper regulation. I am looking forward to the future of online gaming to not only recover lost revenues and add much needed gains but also to keep our industry healthy and people employed.
As we witnessed many jobs were lost and positions eliminated from the land-based operations. Places like Macau, Philippines and Las Vegas are heavily dependent on visitation and with border and flight restrictions employment and stock values fell rapidly in the gaming sector.
With online gaming and sports betting, I see the light ahead and 2020 will be in the rear-view mirror soon enough, new jobs are being created, people can be entertained from the comfort of their home, and vast growth is happening. Some jurisdictions in the U.S. and Asia are already regulating and embracing online gaming as a lifesaver, a growth vehicle, and also as a way to maintain an ongoing relationship with their customers.
Approximately 60-70 percent of sports wagers come over mobile phones and what was once called the second screen, this year the tablet or PC have become the main screen. From a casino perspective Live dealer games such as roulette, Blackjack, and Baccarat are as close to being in the casino as possible, slot games, bingo, keno, and lotto are all available to play remotely.
In the online sector we have seen several billion- dollar mergers and acquisitions and even public offerings carry on without delay. Many casino properties are tied to online companies and sports betting and media partnerships are being announced weekly.
Sports betting may have had the largest impact online since there are many things that can be done from your smartphone or laptop that are sometimes cumbersome in a betting shop or over the counter at a casino point of sale. The thin margins in sports betting have found a growth sector with in-play wagering, early cash out, easy funding and a wide variety of sporting events all within reach of an app or a browser.
The Covid-19 pandemic was not predicted and for the last 35 years I have always felt that as a sportsbook operator we would never experience a complete shutdown and then the unthinkable happened and it happened fast.
I’m thankful for online wagering and the passion and creativity of our industry to move past this moment in time. I hope to see more regulators and operators in global gaming territories use technology as a beacon to see our way through the tunnel and into a bright future.
* John English, CEO WEBE Gaming and Partner, Managing Director Sports Betting and Technology at Global Market Advisors (GMA).