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The COVID-19 pandemic affected various industries in different ways. Some businesses suffered and had to close because of it. Others found something good in what was happening. The gambling sector ended up somewhere in the middle. Let’s dive into the details.
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When the pandemic started, governments had to impose lockdowns to help lessen the spread of the virus. Many public places had to close. Multiple businesses temporarily stopped their operations. Among the businesses that closed their doors for the duration were land casinos in gambling hotspots such as Macao and Las Vegas.
However, things were different in the online sector of the gambling sector. Casino sites and bookies like 10CRIC saw an increase in traffic. They gained new customers.
What seems to have happened is that frequent visitors to land casinos turned to online casinos. However, and even more to the point, some people who didn’t gamble before the pandemic also began to play for real money in online games. This is understandable. People were stuck at home. They were looking for ways to entertain themselves.
How Gambling Behavior Changed During the Pandemic
Lund University in Sweden found in one research that because of the restrictions on sports events during lockdowns, many consumers suddenly found themselves interested in online gambling. Other studies found that regular gamblers also wagered six times more during the lockdown than they would have in previous times.
The study, published last year in the Journal of Gambling Studies, was led by the University of Bristol. According to the researchers, while land-based gambling activities saw a decline during lockdowns, other forms of gambling activity increased. This was especially true in the online gambling sector.
Professor Alan Emond, the study’s lead author wrote, “This study provides unique real-time insights into how people’s attitudes and gambling behavior changed during lockdown when everyone was stuck inside and unable to participate in most social activities.
“The findings reveal that although many forms of gambling were restricted, a minority of regular gamblers significantly increased their gambling and betting online. As with so many repercussions of the pandemic, inequalities have been exacerbated and particularly vulnerable groups were worse affected.”
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Heavy Drinking and Gambling Sector Activity May Be Linked
The researchers used two online questionnaires during the lockdown, and more than 2,600 adults responded. Based on their answers, men were three times more likely than women to gamble regularly. The researchers defined regular gambling as more than once a week.
They also found that drinking heavily and regular gambling appeared to go hand-in-hand in both men and women. Professor Emond said, “The strong link between binge drinking and regular gambling is of particular concern, as they are both addictive behaviors that can have serious health and social consequences.
“With the wider availability of gambling through different online channels, vulnerable groups could get caught in a destructive cycle. A public health approach is needed to minimize gambling harms.”
What Does This Mean for the Future of the Gambling Sector?
This is why there has been talk in certain circles about regulating online gambling. While it was great that the industry flourished during the pandemic, the risks of online gambling have become more apparent.
In countries like India, for example, some states imposed an outright ban on online gambling activities because of the rise of gambling-related problems. However, some places did the opposite. In the US, more states began to finally allow online betting during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, in the UK, the government made sure to implement stricter regulations. The government’s intent was to ensure consumer safety, especially young people. The UK even banned the use of credit cards on any gambling-related transactions in order to minimize risk.
More Governmental Scrutiny Is Sure to Come
What’s certain is that online gambling will continue to grow in the coming years. In fact, some industry watchers predict that the global online gambling market will have a value of more than US$92.9 billion by the end of 2023. Currently, the estimated value of the gambling sector is around US$59 billion. That says a lot about what lies ahead for the online sector.
The industry grew significantly during the pandemic. Moreover, that growth is likely to continue. The pandemic merely boosted a trend that had already begun.
But mostly due to its continuing popularity, more jurisdictions will likely put the gambling sector under a microscope. There are only two ways to go about it. Governments can choose to prohibit online gambling entirely. This would minimize the rise of gambling-related problems. Or they can do what the UK has been doing for a while now, which is to regulate the industry with the help of a gambling commission.
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