The Covid-19 pandemic is one catastrophe that took the world by surprise, affecting more than 150 countries, including Ireland. We saw this shaking in several sectors of the Irish economy like banking, finance, education, health and many more. Unfortunately, the gambling sector was not spared in this ugly crisis.
Interestingly the gambling industry in Ireland although severely affected, is one of a few that had a bitter story to tell of the pandemic. In the heat of the pandemic in march, over 800 bet shops, casinos and pubs across Ireland were forced to close. Even after the government asked for a reopening, several of these outfits, especially the bet shops, had to stay closed forever.
The closure of land casinos did a lot, changed how players gamble, and significantly impacted the gambling industry in Ireland. But then, not all the aspects of gambling suffered this feat. Despite the devastating effects of the COVID-19, we saw some massive growth in the online casino sector. Exploring this page about live gambling, you will see the rise in the number of online casinos even during the pandemic.
This article explores all the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the average Irish gambler. It’ll also examine the few positives and future expectations from the gambling sector.
COVID 19: The Tough Times
When the first case of COVID-19 came up in November 2019, not many would have imagined its impact could be far-reaching like it is today. As a safety precaution, governments around the world, including Ireland, had to wade in asking citizens to take to social distancing measures. However, like with most countries, the rising numbers of cases proved that there was a need for something more substantial than social distancing.
On that note, Ireland announced a total lockdown on many activities of which gambling was one. As a result of this closure, over 800 betting shops across Ireland had to be closed. The impacts were so harmful, leaders in the industry like BoyleSports and Ladbrokes had to voice out their disappointment in the closure. Even with their status as ‘giants’ in the industry, a spokesperson from BoyleSports was quoted recently describing the pandemic situation as “devastating.”
But then, that was only going to be the start of the problem. The Irish government also cancelled and postponed all sporting activities in the country. That was the final straw for the back of the industry.
That is because sports betting takes a considerable part of the gambling industry in Ireland. Every day of the week, before the pandemic, there was something to bet on. From horse racing to football, punters had a wide variety of games to select.
With the lockdown active in many parts of Ireland, many people were out of their jobs and bored. Many who weren’t even gamblers before the crisis looked to gambling as a form of entertainment. Unfortunately, the increased demand for potential betting options could not be met because there were no actual sports activities.
Even if these betting companies wanted to have bets, there were no activities to bet on. So, naturally, there was a severe drop in revenue in many gambling organizations. VGC, an international organization that owns Sportingbet and other land-based casinos, recently claimed they lost about 150 million Euros to the pandemic. Similarly, Flutter entertainment, an Irish gambling company, claims they lost about 110 million Euros to the pandemic. As a result of this huge numbers companies like VGC had to close many of their betting shops permanently. A lot of workers lost their jobs, as huge chunks of revenue dropped.
The Silver Lining
COVID 19 came with its impacts, mostly negative, at the same time, it came with opportunities for the gambling industry. The life-taking virus has transformed the gambling industry, and it’s responsible for the growth that we are experiencing right now in online gambling.
Punters who were stuck in their homes and had nothing interesting to do presented an opportunity to stakeholders in the industry. So, to meet up with the demand, stakeholders in the gambling space made adjustments to absorb the demand. There was a creation of several online casinos and consequently, many new games to go with.
Fans of online slots had time to try the games they didn’t know before. Although some went to play free online slot games, others enjoyed checking the Chinese fortune-tellers as subjects.
Many newcomers are visiting the sites of the casino to enjoy winding rolls and turning the rolls. Ordinary players are also keen to play online to develop their game skills. More people are playing online poker games now than ever with live sports betting or other non-completely working sports betting. People kept searching for a new kind of betting and sought relief in online gaming.
The coronavirus epidemic seems to have had a marginal impact on online casinos offering games such as Roulette, Online Scratch Cards, Poker, etc. The number of online casino players has risen marginally since the virus began to spread.
A new survey by Research Company Optimove reveals that the number of regular poker players has risen by 43 per cent. This increase is essential enough that Poker will save a lot of online casinos. According to a research by Optimove, many poker casinos doubled the number of their Poker players recently.
Compared with a typical day before the lockout, there has been a considerable rise of 255 per cent in first-time poker players in the timeframe.
The Future Implications
The COVID 19 hurricane appears to be weathering online casinos for the time being. Any benefit. Some benefits. The question is, as Ireland enters another round of lockdown is, how long?
This came after many sports betting outfits had already put in measures, costing millions of Euros to ensure the safety of their clients. As the crisis seems to raise its ugly heads, we expect that gambling becomes fully digital. By the end of 2020, we should see more casinos. Although, this would mean many small shop owners would be forced out of business if the pandemic intensifies.
Moving forward, we expect the pandemic to drive innovation in the online gambling space. With the rise in competition, we’ll likely be seeing better games and casinos with massive bonuses try their best to woo customers on every side.
At the same time, there are growing concerns that the growth of the online gambling industry might lead to increased problem gambling. As more people get convenient playing from home and with so much privacy, more people might get addiction problems.
The effects of COVID-19 continue to rock the gambling community in Ireland. While its impact may appear inconsequential; nonetheless, tangible consequences on business will remain mostly for small scale betting shop owners.
At the same time, we expect the pandemic will birth a new age in online gambling and gambling generally in Ireland and the world at large.