Coronavirus and its impact on the gambling industry

The coronavirus has spread its way right across Europe which has led to governments and sporting governing bodies across the continent to take action to try and curb the pandemic’s effect.

Many of the major European nations have put themselves into lockdown. In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has imposed a “stay at home” policy and has limited travel to only specific reasons like work or getting essentials such as food and medicine.

This has already had a big impact in Italy as two of the biggest names in the gambling industry, Newgioco and Snaitech, have both been forced to close betting shops and internet cafes across the countries to fall in line with the new policy.

In the Netherlands, Holland Casino has closed its branches across the country until the 31st March at the earliest. Belgium has also closed all of its casinos, gambling halls, cafes with gambling machines, and betting shops until April 4th at the earliest.

The sporting world put on hold

The pandemic has led to major sporting events like the Olympics in Tokyo and UEFA Euro 2020 being delayed until next year and a lot of sports have delayed completing their seasons. UEFA have also postponed the Europa League and Champions League until further notice with both competitions in the knockout phase.  The Premier League and EFL have delayed the season until April 30th at the earliest. The National League has gone one step further than this and made any league below National League North/South null and void. This means that there will be no promotion or relegation, which has angered many teams who were either already promoted or were nailed on for promotion.

Leagues across Europe are also suspended with Ligue 1 and 2, Serie A-D, La Liga/ Segunda Division and Bundesliga – 3.Liga.

Effects on the UK gambling industry- 

All these postponements are going to hit the UK high street gambling market massively and could even see some physical betting shops being closed down permanently due to the effects of the pandemic. Physical shops had faced a decline in profits following last April’s changes to the maximum stake on fixed-odds machines to £2 down from a previous £100. William Hill’s revenue dropped by 13% to £1.2bn whilst GVC closed 13% of its shops over the last year due to these changes.

In a recent statement, the British Gambling Commission chair Neil McArthur has called on gambling operators to remember their duty of care to their customers in testing times like these. He said that due to the fact that there will be an increased number of people staying at home for large portions of the day now compared to an average week, he urged companies to make sure their systems of protecting their customers were as high as ever. In his statement, McArthur said: “Protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed by gambling has always been a major priority and we are very mindful – as you should be – of the fact that the risks of harm arising from online gambling have increased as a result of recent events,”

He went to say that operators should be aware that customers may be facing financial difficulty following the closure of all non-essential shops and workplaces, which means that they could be experiencing higher levels of anxiety and other mental health conditions. He advised operators to step in if they see anything irregular going on with customers spending.

This comes after UK MP’s called on the firms to impose a betting day cap for its customers. McArthur added to these calls saying: “If we see irresponsible behaviour we will step in immediately. So, whilst I know that the current climate is unprecedented, gambling operators must play their part in making sure that people are kept safe.”

It will be interesting to see how things pan out for the gambling industry, especially if major sporting leagues and events keep getting postponed and it could be a summer to forget for many firms out there. 

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