The scare brought about by the outbreak of COVID-19 has been taking a toll on land-based casino revenues but has been contributing to the increase of players on online gambling sites.
The 2019 novel coronavirus, now officially named by the World Health Organization COVID-19, continues to spread across the world. As of Wednesday, there had been close to 80,000 cases of infection in China alone, including 2,718 deaths, according to the data reported by China to WHO. Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, particularly in 37 countries, there had been fewer than 3,000 cases of the Wuhan virus, among which are 44 deaths. In fact, the risk brought about by the coronavirus pandemic has pushed the Venezuelan government to give its doctors a bonus in the Petro cryptocurrency.
The numbers have prompted some jurisdictions to impose temporary travel bans and halts in business operations. In Macau, for instance, the government ordered on February 4th that the casinos be closed for 15 days to curb the spread of COVID-19. The move made the revenue of Macau’s casinos suffer, considering that the closure period coincided with the Chinese New Year season, the busiest week in the world’s gambling capital during which Chinese are expected to flock the casinos.
Matthew Ossolinski, a gambling investor and consultant, said the impact of the half-a-month closure could be devastating, specifically stating his estimate of 5 to 15 percent decrease in Macau’s gambling revenue in 2020. Supporting this approximation is Fitch Ratings’ report stating there was an 80 percent drop in Macau visits in late January.
Although the casinos in the world’s biggest gambling destination already reopened on February 20th, relatively fewer visitors were seen. The normally crowded major casinos looked desolate on the day of reopen, with some having no queues at all by the main entrance.
Jason Ader, SpringOwl Asset Management’s Managing Partner, even told CNBC that the COVID-19 situation has been making a lot of gamblers turn to online casinos instead. He argued this should even be a wake-up call for authorities to now legalize online gambling on a wider scale. He said:
“Once it [COVID-19] starts spreading, other casinos can get hit. I think it’s a wake-up call, not just in Asia but in the U.S.”
As Ader urges the promotion of “safe and germ-free” gambling over land-based gaming, especially amid the Wuhan virus outbreak, online betting sites, like Stake.com, and online gambling affiliates see a spike in the number of players they have racked up lately. Experts say this increase may be owed to the assumption that many players have grown scared of falling victim to the human-to-human transmission of the COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Smile-Expo is holding an online conference titled Betting in face of COVID-19 dedicated to address crisis management of the European betting business during the pandemic. Governments, however, are concerned over the increasing gambling addiction, which prompts the authorities to make sure to stop gambling advertising.
Weeks after the lockdown in Las Vegas, however, gamblers have started to return to Las Vegas casinos. Owners and business executives have shared their opinions about the matter.