Change of Casino Culture: Online Gambling Takes a New Turn During Pandemic

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The pandemic has had far-reaching consequences across the globe in all walks of life. The effects of the COVID outbreak have extended to the gambling sector and online casinos, leading to changes in consumer behaviour and operator emphasis. 

The following article will assess changes in culture within the sector from both a user and company perspective. 

User Trends

The online gambling industry has seen an influx of new users over the past year, thanks in no small part to the implications of the pandemic. Increased time spent in our homes has turned many to new forms of entertainment, often in the form of online casinos and sportsbooks. These new users include both novice gamblers and people whom would ordinarily go to a brick-and-mortar casino.

Trends among people who gamble online show that these same people are more likely to spend more on online entertainment than the rest of the adult population. In addition, gamblers statistically watch more TV that other adults, slightly more viewed news online, and more watched on-demand television.

Impacts on the Gambling Market

Lockdowns across the globe cut the gambling industry’s profit and caused drop of a reported 50%. The immediate impact of these changes had a knock-on effect for operators’ strategies. 

Research suggests that in general, fewer people are gambling but the number of products that pre-existing gamblers used has increased. Although there were some who took up gambling and online casino games during the height of the pandemic, the reduction in household income likely played a part in this number remaining low.

Research by YouGov indicates that approximately a third of gamblers assessed during a period within the pandemic have tried a new gambling activity during said period. Among the new activities being played, the most common are fast-paced such as slot games. This comes despite no marked increase in advertising.

In general, gamblers have not increased the rate at which they are participating in gambling activities but the amount of time and money spent has seen a rise. The number of sessions is also on an upward trajectory.

The amount of customer accounts has seen a small dip but this isn’t true across the board with some gambling products proving more resistant than others. In fact, the amount of activity recorded in association with certain products appears to be in the rise. 

Industry data has shown an increase in active players whilst the number of bets per customer has decreased. This same trend cannot be seen in online casino games, particularly slot games where the average has maintained.

These results are consistent with self-report data which suggests that, in general, people have not increased the amount of time and money spent gambling. However, this is not necessarily true for pre-existing gamblers.

Engaged gamblers have displayed data suggesting an increase in activity and money spent of over 60% during the pandemic. This is obviously a far larger increase than the market is used to seeing in ordinary circumstances.

Over the past few years, gambling sessions have decreased by approximately four minutes but the number of sessions lasting over an hour have gone up by around 23%

Looking Forward

There is a lot of information to digest relating to gambling habits during the course of the pandemic, some of which is more explicable than others. An increase in data points will help to establish a better understanding of the changes in habit as we move forward.

It isn’t apparent whether these changes are likely to persist beyond the pandemic or if they are purely influenced by the very direct and immediate changes caused by the COVID outbreak.

Developers and online gambling platforms will no doubt attempt to maximise profits based on trends such as the increase of players participating in slot game titles. As restrictions ease and people return to some sense of normality, the industry is likely to experience a boost in players. Rising disposable income lends itself to more active users which will naturally boost the market.

Moving forward, there appears to be a slight shift in culture among existing players. There is less of a reluctance to try new products which will act as an incentive for developers and platforms such as to expand their range of products and games beyond the usual popular genres.