The global coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of disruption to life, with a huge impact on a lot of industries and sectors causing great economic damage, to go with the loss of lives and the illness that has spread globally. Two of the worst-affected sectors have been the tourism and gambling sectors. Tourism has become virtually impossible in the current climate, with lockdown measures in place and strict restrictions in terms of travel. This has also caused a lot of hotels to struggle as well as rooms are going empty at present. Another knock-on effect has been on the gambling industry, as casinos have also had to shut down all over the world to comply with social distancing rules, and the vast majority of clients at the most famous casinos are tourists anyway. In the face of all of this, one sector which has shown remarkable growth in online gaming, and this provides the pathway for the gambling sector to be able to stage some sort of recovery, where casino online games have seen a lot of demand during the lockdown.
In the foreseeable future, with a mass-produced COVID-19 vaccine still, some way off, the best way for Asian establishments to be able to revive themselves is to promote online gaming. The USA and Europe have shown that online gaming can thrive, provided the regulations are strict. We have seen how online gaming revenue has soared throughout the world as lockdowns were put in place. From mid-March onwards, online gaming has been the only option, with casinos closed everywhere in Asia, except in Macau. According to reports, online gaming rose in Europe by 20% this year, while in the US state of New Jersey, revenues rose by a staggering 118% to $80 million in April, and 124% to $86 million in May, over the same period last year. In Pennsylvania, online gaming revenues more than doubled from $26 million in March to $56 million in May.
This was in contrast to gaming revenue overall. New Jersey’s gaming revenue fell by $181 million in May, while Macau has seen gross revenue fall by 93% in May and 97% in June. This outlook is likely to remain gloomy for some time even as restrictions are eased, as people remain fearful and they will not begin to use public transport and travel at anywhere near the same rate as we saw before this crisis hit.
Even when casinos have reopened, the measures in place to ensure social distancing have killed the vibe and soul of the place. There are plastic dividers around gambling tables and machines, while tables themselves have reduced seating. In such a scenario, online gaming is the only option available to sustain payroll and bear costs. In Asia, where up to $50 billion worth of online gambling play occurs every year illegally, it makes sense for governments to make the practice legal and regulate it, so that they can earn tax revenue, while casino operators can begin to earn revenue as well during this time. However, so far, Asian authorities have been reluctant to allow online gambling. Macau is a prime example, where residents are allowed to gamble in casinos, place bets on horse racing, and place bets on sports physically and through their phones as well, but online gambling is still prohibited.
At the same time, some casino operators are also against online gambling, fearing that it will cause a permanent shift in demand away from land-based casinos to online websites. However, if they do want to implement online gambling, there are numerous examples from Europe and the United States which show that the two practices can exist harmoniously side by side as well.