The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the gambling sector hard across the globe. It certainly has had an impact in Canada. How much has been lost and will continue to drift away? No doubt the online market is facing troubles while land-based casinos open and close periodically.
Despite health precautions, attendance and participation is declining. Competition is fierce for those who partake.
Regulatory committees have their headaches. The lockdown has provoked the temptation of staking high, a particular issue for high-risk problem gamblers. Players have been losing their primary source of income, thereby increasing online gambling to compensate. The lack of safeguards to protect vulnerable players is a major concern.
The UK Gambling Commission for one has advised operators on the subject. Reputable operators are now avoiding advertising their brands so as not to take advantage of high-risk problem players while at home. The biggest operators in Canada follow the same example of a player-first mentality.
Who is suffering the most?
The answer is physical casinos. They have been closed as potential coronavirus hotspots. They are not labeled as an essential business in any case.
However, many are resuming operations with mandated health and safety requirements in place for both players and employees. Fewer players can congregate simultaneously and spaces between slot machines are far greater.
Playing equipment is sanitized frequently in venues across Canada. Masks are plentiful, while dealers wear gloves and plexiglass eye shields.
Meanwhile spas, nightclubs, or restaurants are still closed and are leaking profits. Although gambling activities in physical casinos are getting back to normal, many leery players are still not comfortable there. In short, he gambling experience is not close to what it used to be.
Sports betting is ailing too
It is not surprising to see the decline of the sports betting given the cancellation or postponement of many events including competitions, races, and tournaments. Bettors need something to gamble on.
The good news is that some of the most popular sporting events are back, such as the NBA. It comes with strict rules for all the participants, players, and staff. The old routine is resuming but often behind closed doors. Canada needs to find safe ways to help the sports industry recover.
Lottery and scratch cards suffer
The impact of COVID-19 on lottery and scratch games varies province to province. We do know that lottery ticket sales have dropped. Scratch cards are faring better as they are more accessible in supermarkets. Part of the problem is that lottery winners have not been able to cash out their payouts although the Canada Lottery Corporation has extended the claims period.
Even the development, content, and software purveyors for gambling products are seeing a decline in investments. Even major brands are avoiding new partnerships or ventures.
Less-established operators are struggling to retain their foothold, regardless of how innovative their products are. For everyone, alternative sources of funding is required. It takes some creativity for sure. It is not a time for new entrepreneurs.
Setbacks abound due to the pandemic around the world as in Canada. Budgets being downsized in these tough times. Will the market recover? We will find out! It may be slow but steady and that might be enough.