November 6, 2020 written by

What does the second lockdown mean for the future of gambling?

Here we are in day five of our second nation-wide lockdown to halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Just as when the news of the first lockdown came in March, many of us feel distressed and uncertain about how we will be impacted both on a personal and on a national economic level. 

This decision is clearly necessary for the sake of public health. But the announcement of a second lockdown has been particularly difficult to accept for all those who work in the retail sector, which includes betting shops, arcades, bingo halls and land-based casinos. 

This end to all operations will affect the income of an estimated 87 thousand workers, many of whom will now have to rely on Universal Credit or the furlough scheme which provides 80% of a typical wage – a tragedy for those already struggling on minimum wage.

From a business perspective, casino operators are also understandably frustrated. Having invested huge amounts of time and resources into COVID-proofing their sites, ensuring they were scientifically proven to safeguard against spreading the virus, they have suddenly been told it’s not enough.

All potential income for these businesses over the coming month has been axed and their futures are in jeopardy. It’s unclear whether shops will survive since many still haven’t recovered from the losses caused by the first lockdown. Urgent support is needed, pleads CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), Michael Dugher.

“The Government must have a science-led approach and avoid the arbitrary and unnecessary decisions that led to random closures of casinos and betting shops, which damage employment and revenues to the Exchequer,” says Dugher.

He continues, “It’s also important that when the latest lockdown is over, betting shops are allowed to open safely along with other non-essential retail, as they were in June. Casinos, which have the best anti-COVID measures operating anywhere in hospitality and entertainment, should also reopen at the same time.”

As dire as this situation is, it comes as a positive to online operators who will undoubtedly thrive under these new circumstances. With people stuck home, with more free time and fewer options for fun, everyone’s turning online for a bit of entertainment – online casinos are an obvious choice. Across the board, gambling sites received a huge surge in traffic and new sign-ups during the previous lockdown period and predict more growth to come.

Professional sports including the Premier League and EFL will go ahead as normal during this time, so online betting agencies such as Bet365 can expect to rake in the cash land-based betting shops would have received.

When (or should we say ‘if’) the ban is lifted on December 2nd and highstreets come back to life for the Christmas season, it seems unlikely casinos and betting shops will be able to make up for a month of lost revenue. Players who switched to online options during this month might well stick to their new digital gambling ventures.

The betting landscape is clearly changing. Though the recession looms and the British population is at record levels of unemployment, the continued growth of online gambling has proven the industry is pandemic-proof. As with most of retail, lockdown is only speeding up the digitalisation of society with the inevitable transition from physical stores to online. 

With new casino sites launching every week, offering better bonuses to entice more and more customers, it’s a matter of time before online takes over the industry.

Statistics courtesy of Statista.
Full statement from the BCG on https://bettingandgamingcouncil.com/

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