With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, many operators have transferred their offers to online through appropriate remote access devices. How did representatives of the online casinos business unit react to this question? What constraints did the segment face in the quarantine context? What happened to users, or does it depend on jurisdiction? Read more details in our material.
Expert statements on the current situation
It is known that in most countries the number of fans playing with a smartphone was about 80% of all participants in the online gambling industry. Between 2012 and 2018, the share of players who prefer smartphones to access casino games, which also includes online slots, increased by 117%. This indicates that in the past people were more likely to prefer slot machines offline, live poker, etc. VR-reality has become one of the key additions that online casino developers are counting on.
In an interview with the same publication, Todd Hauschalter, Product Director at Evolution Gaming, also predicted the future, saying that the online segment will only grow. Referring to the customer question, he noted that ten years ago, customer confidence in companies was valued, whereas now people have more confidence in the internet. Market players are expected to spend $4.5 billion this year on VR technology that will allow them to connect to a particular game. For example, NetEnt has almost finished creating the newest VR Live Casino - NetEnt Live Beyond Live.
Statistical data indicate that the direction is becoming increasingly popular. In the UK, for example, the demand for online slots increased by 25% a month after quarantine began. There has also been a 38% increase in online poker room activity. Experts believe that after three months of quarantine these indicators will be even higher. As Icytales points out, a huge number of new players in online casinos are regular visitors to ground establishments and slots halls.
As a well-known publication reports, Chris Krejcik, Managing Director of Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, hopes that the states will recover the losses incurred through online casinos and betting. He assures that the pandemic will increase demand for these areas and the budget will be replenished by licence fees and tax payments.
In the context of interesting slot proposals in the USA, Hard Rock Casino stood out, becoming the world's first online gaming provider to promote slot machines over the Internet. According to Krezimir Spadzic, Senior Vice President of Online Games and Sports Betting at Hard Rock International, the new feature allows players to control terrestrial slot machines remotely. The gaming equipment is located in Hard Rock Atlantic City and players from New Jersey can access it using a standard PC, Macbook, tablet or mobile device.
Restriction of online casino offers before and after quarantine
At the same time, the online casino market is directly influenced by the legislative framework of certain countries. Latvia is the least fortunate country in this regard, where not only the land-based industry but also online casinos are under restrictions. Initially, this was due to the fact that under the influence of self-isolation, the country's population will be more likely to play games of chance, which will lead to an increase in cases of problematic gaming. In response, Enlabs filed a lawsuit claiming that the ban violates the Foreign Investment Protection Act and strikes at guarantees of freedom of business. The main outcome of this decision is also emphasised - the country will lose around 160 million euros. Dainis Niedra, Managing Director of Enlabs Central and Eastern Europe, also touched on the risks of more frequent gamblings problem. The expert noted that this is the position of some deputies, but not the entire Latvian government.
Refuting information about increased dependence on gambling during quarantine was provided by researchers at the University of London. According to its results, there is no trend for an increase in gambling activity among the majority of those surveyed. Around 4% said that online casinos have become more frequent with the advent of quarantine. No significant changes have been observed among 51% of respondents. Sweden has also entered a number of countries where the coronavirus pandemic has become an excuse to reduce deposits at online casinos. To date, the case for such restrictions requires additional verification, according to parliamentarian John Weinerhall. The expert also states that as a result of this decision, local operators risk losing customers who switch to more advantageous offers from unlicensed companies.
Cases of regular rate restrictions in land-based and online slots were also reported during the prequarantine period. An example of this is Germany, where as early as at the end of January the draft State Treaty proposed to set new limits on spins in slots, and for online casinos the federal states must set their own rules.
Thus, we can see that the increase in the level of dependence on gambling during quarantine was mainly talked about by lawmakers, who even in pre-crisis times regularly introduced online casinos into the framework of the services they offered. In turn, a number of studies, for example, conducted at the University of London or by Neccton and the International Department of Gambling Research at the University of Nottingham, indicate that the quarantine behavior of participants has not changed significantly, but the nuance of the territorial location of the market occupies a special place in this issue, as, for example, in Georgia, Adjarabet representative Markus Davarashvili stated about the growth of operations in online casinos. Speaking about the increasing activity of participants, it is worth noting the growth of the online products segment in the past years, which, in turn, may distort relevant data.