2020 was a difficult year for many people around the world as the globe grappled with a pandemic. At the beginning of the year, everything was operating as normal and people were going about their lives in the usual way. However, the spread of COVID-19 soon changed the way we lived our lives, with millions of people being forced to stay at home where possible.
Unfortunately, this led to the closure of many land-based casinos and sports betting shops. Only those shops deemed as being necessary were allowed to remain open during some parts of the year, such as supermarkets.
So, with the closure of land-based casinos and sports betting shops, those who usually enjoyed having a flutter on the horses or a game of roulette were forced to look for other options and that led many people to gamble online.
With people spending more time at home than ever before, the way in which we entertained ourselves changed dramatically, especially in the first half of 2020. In terms of the overall gambling market in the United Kingdom, retail gambling venues normally generate 50% of the overall market (excluding lotteries) but this stopped. This led to a small increase in the number of bets on online slots but overall, there was not a huge difference in the number of people gambling online.
However, a major change came in May 2020 when there was a 60% increase in the number of bets on real event betting online. By real event betting, we mean sporting events, such as football and it is no coincidence that this increase in the number of bets being placed coincided with the return of the Bundesliga in Germany.
Interestingly, although online slots did not see a significant increase in the number of people playing in 2020, the same cannot be said for online poker. All of the major, in-person poker events around the world were forced to stop and this left thousands of poker players with nothing to do with their time. Anyone who was considering playing poker for the first time, now had the opportunity to do as work was taken out of the equation. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise to learn that since the coronavirus lockdowns began, the US has witnessed an increase of first-time online poker players by 255% up until October 2020. This has led to a 43% growth in the poker industry since April 2020 and a significant increase in online gambling during the year.
In Australia, a joint study by Australian Credit Bureau Illion and analytics firm AlphaBeta reported a 67% rise in online gambling during the first week of April 2020. This data is based on the first few weeks of the pandemic and lockdown in Australia, with people stuck at home without many forms of entertainment.
One of the many positive aspects of playing online poker or live casino games is the interaction with the dealer and other players. So, although some people may have turned to online gambling purely as a form of entertainment or to replace a visit to a land-based casino, for some it was more about the social aspects of the games.