The threat of COVID-19 has led to so much change in the world, with social distancing now being enacted, self-isolation being necessary for some people and days in quarantine for others who have been abroad. Schools have also been closed, leading to parents having to home school their children – sometimes with odd results. Yet, perhaps it’s the fact that entertainment and sporting events have also been forced to shut down all operations due to the fact that they bring mass gatherings of people.
Naturally, with sports events not taking place at the moment, the sports betting industry has also taken a knock. Bettors won’t be able to place wagers on events that aren’t happening, but has this led to such gamblers opting for riskier possibilities where their money is concerned?
According to a report from The Guardian, gamblers are choosing to switch from wagers on sports to what it deems as far riskier online casino slot games and the like. But, is this actually the case? Utilising figures from the 888 Holdings brand, the report suggests that this operator has seen its income from sports betting decrease significantly, thanks to the cancellation of key events like the Premier League, Grand National and the Olympics. Sports betting supposedly accounts for around 16% of the revenue that 888 Holdings makes.
According to the same company, evidence is there to suggest that those sports gamblers are migrating across to using alternative products, such as the aforementioned casino games. Yet, this may not actually be the case where sports bettors are concerned.
Existing Casino Players Spending More Gaming
Online casino gaming is already a large industry in itself, and there’s the possibility that because those people who frequent such sites are now spending more time indoors and at home, they’re simply accessing these platforms more frequently. Additionally, because land-based casinos are no longer able to operate for the time being, this could have pushed visitors to such into the online sphere instead.
888 Holdings claimed that there is evidence to show “increased customer activity in the group’s casino and poker products…”, although there is nothing that can confirm this is definitely due to sports bettors finding other places to spend their money. Yet, because of the increased activity that has been seen at such casino sites, a cross-party group of MPs called to place a £50 daily cap on bets earlier on in the week. It cited concerns over vulnerable people and addicts being specifically at risk during the lockdown period that is in place at the moment.
While evidence seems to suggest that online sports betting carries a bit of a risk where gambling disorder is concerned, online slots, bingo and casino games can have a much higher rate for potential addicts. With regard to the request from the MPs for a daily betting cap to be introduced, so far that has gone unanswered.
Real Concern Or Campaigners Seeking Attention?
Campaigners against gambling have been seeking out ways of reducing betting limits and stopping the activity altogether in some circumstances. So, could this just be a way of them trying to get a leg-up in their end goal? Possibly so. After all, certain evidence seems to also suggest that in general, the crossover between sports bettors and them opting to participate in casino gaming is quite low overall. Figures as low as 10% of sports bettors are said to really cross over into playing casino games, and even then, bets made by such players are relatively low.
Speaking of 888 in particular, the brand has been putting measures in place to spot any potential signs of problem gambling occurring. The company spoke to its investors recently, stating that with people now spending more of their time at home, “888’s vigilance on safe gambling and preventing gambling-related harm is even more important than ever”.
Whether or not sports bettors are in their majority turning to “riskier variations of gambling” as suggested is something that can’t specifically be stated with certainty. That being said, there is evidence to show that sports betting companies are, in some cases, promoting their casino and poker options to members at the moment. Naturally, this is being proposed as an alternative to help with the revenue losses that the sports betting industry is suffering.
Speaking of his own brand GVC, which owns Ladbrokes Coral, the CEO, Kenny Alexander said that this method of operating has been “working reasonably well” for them. Despite the postponement of all major sporting competitions, he also said that the Ladbrokes platform remains open and offering odds on the events that are continuing, some of which are behind closed doors.
Furthermore, gambling groups have chosen to step up their advertisement of casino games and social media gambling. To add to this, evidence suggests that virtual racing has also picked up steam, working as a sort of alternative to placing bets on horseracing fixtures.
For now, the situation should probably be monitored by all operators opting to push sports bettors towards their casino and poker options. Any dramatic shift in the number of people participating in such will doubtless prove that the risks become greater for more people to be affected by problem gambling. However, sports bettors aren’t specifically known for being big spenders where casino games are concerned, so it could potentially just be something that’s being blown out of proportion.