The global coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on essentially every aspect of our lives. In a way not really seen since the Spanish Flu of the early 20th century, societies across the globe have had to radically reimagine how they should operate in the face of this new and unknown existential crisis.
The challenges posed are unique in the modern context – the virus is most likely both airborne and may spread over surfaces, which means that public transports, social gatherings, eating out, working in office spaces, etc. all now pose a risk to our national health. Governments around the world have therefore responded by locking down their citizens and imposing quarantine measures of varying strictness. Did all this disruption affect online businesses in the UK, like the casino industry?
While the consequences of the pandemic have varied across the planet, with countries like Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand handling it extremely well, and other mostly European and American countries handling it less well, there have been some constants in the experience of everyone. These stem chiefly from the simple fact that when stuck at home in extended periods of lockdown, people have more free time on their hands and consequently have spent a much greater amount of their time on their hobbies, which, as it transpires, are to a very large extent digital in contemporary society.
While the virus has certainly changed the ways in which we interact with technology such as the internet, this has turned out to in fact be positive for many industries and commercial enterprises, not least the online gambling market. In fact, the online gambling market has grown in 2020 and is expected to continue in growth throughout the rest of the year. This is down to the simple fact that more folks at home means more people spending time at their computers and on their phones visiting online casinos instead of physical locations, many of which were forced to be shut down to avoid spreading the coronavirus disease.
Indeed the UK saw a huge peak in searches for online casinos following their first national lockdown in the early summer. While this wasn’t a huge surprise considering the recent trend of the online gambling market growing rapidly in any case over the past few years, powered by new technology in the online casino space, the enormity of the increase in UK traffic to sites like PlayFrank casino online nevertheless caught many industry commentators and talking heads very much off-guard.
Of course, it may very well be argued that an already present trend of growth in the gambling market was a prerequisite for countries to take best advantage of the online niche. Countries with much more strict regulatory bodies and measures controlling the amount of money and/or time that people can spend on gambling, particularly online, saw a far more limited increase in commercial activity. For example, Swedish gambling revenue shrunk massively due to restrictive governmental laws that have prevented people from gambling as much money during the pandemic as citizens of the UK.
Moving forwards into the uncertain landscape that awaits the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, albeit in a future that is unlikely to be near given the continuing growth and spread of the virus, national regulatory bodies would do well to recognize that the changing social atmosphere is unlikely to go away anytime soon. The private sector, if given half a chance, will be fully capable of developing innovative alternatives to in-person gambling at physical locations such as casinos and gambling halls. However, if national governments elect to adopt a more restrictive approach, industries like the online casino industry may see crashes such as the Swedish one mentioned above.
This is particularly relevant in light of the currently ongoing revision of the UK’s regulatory body; the Gambling Commission. While some organizations like the Social Market Foundation have called for new measures such as daily, weekly or monthly caps to online betting in the name of consumer protectionism as part of this review, the UK Government may need to push back against such regulation in the interest of market growth.