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The COVID-19 pandemic has already significantly impacted businesses and will have a potentially lasting impact on the economy. Businesses worldwide face unparalleled losses with many consumers facing the prospect of a bleak economy with severely dented disposable income.
Many industries have been badly hit; this includes gambling which has been heavily impacted by the pandemic. Like many businesses across the globe, land-based casinos and other gambling establishments saw massive losses following forced closures when the national lockdown came into effect on 27 March 2020.
Land versus online casinos
Land-based casinos have the largest gambling market share in South Africa but they have steadily been losing market share to online casinos, this shift has been accelerated by COVID-19, according to the report, ‘The South African Gambling Industry in South Africa 2020’, which states that “while the traditional gambling industry is facing unparalleled losses, online gambling sites have reported a surge in activity since the national lockdown came into effect on 27 March 2020”.
Many gamblers reverted to online gambling since they couldn’t access land-based casinos as a result of the lockdown. It is safe to say that it’s land-based casinos with an online presence that was in the best position to survive the lockdown.
While this may have been good news for online casinos, the adverse effect of COVID-19 on consumers’ pockets meant they were spending less on unnecessary goods and pastimes, which includes gambling, according to the ‘The South African Gambling Industry in South Africa 2020’ report.
With this increase in online gambling, however, it has never been more important for players to take precautions to avoid fraudulent or illegal online casinos. It’s also important that they ensure that the site they are using is vetted, trusted, licensed and legal and that they check reviews from a trusted source such as the PlayLive casino review.
Where we are now
Level 1 has seen the country slowly open up with expectations of a slow resumption of business at land-based casinos and other betting outlets once the lockdown ends.
While most ordinary activity can resume, including the frequenting of gambling establishments, there are precautions and health guidelines that always need to be followed at such establishments.
According to government regulations, the limit for gatherings at casinos has been set at 50 percent of the venue’s capacity. Visitors are also required to keep a distance of at least one and a half metres from each other and must always wear masks.
Other rules and regulations that land-based casinos need to adhere to limit the number of tables and number of table players and physical barriers separating each slot machine.
There has been a persistent move towards online commerce and digitisation in many sectors. While pre COVID-19 consumers were increasingly living their lives online, the pandemic is already being credited with accelerating this online migration to an even greater degree, as consumers are forced to socially distance themselves.
For all businesses, what they will find is that COVID-19 has changed many consumers’ attitudes, habits and beliefs. If they are not reaching them online, where many of them are spending the majority of their time, they will soon find themselves obsolete.
Many reports confirm that the pandemic resulted in many South African consumers making their first online transaction for essential goods, this includes groceries and pharmacy purchases.
It’s no surprise then that we are seeing the same trend also being played out in the gambling industry with many players, even before COVID-19, choosing to gamble at home rather than frequenting a gambling outlet, because of the convenience it provides, and now to physically distance themselves as per government regulations.
In conclusion, while COVID-19 has resulted in both temporary and permanent trends across many sectors, however, the shift towards online and online gambling (in particular) seems to be here to stay. All in all, to prepare for the future, land-based casinos must embrace online gambling if they are to survive.