Almost 300 million Americans have been under some form of lockdown since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As per the stay-at-home order imposed by more than 30 states, only ‘essential’ businesses remain open. Casinos; however, do not belong to this category.
As a result, the world’s gambling capital Las Vegas became a ghost town with no retail casinos allowed to operate.
It is basically the same situation in all parts of the country. All 989 commercial and tribal casinos in the US have closed their doors to the public as of early May. Some are planning to reopen by the end of the month, but that certainly this isn’t going to resurrect the industry.
The Downfall of Land-Based Casinos
According to a study by AmericanGaming.org, the economic damage suffered by the casino industry has already surpassed 43 billion dollars.
The same research revealed some shocking figures about the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on land-based online casinos, such as:
- 56 million people have cancelled/postponed their plans to visit a casino.
- More than 650,000 employees are affected by casino closures.
- Casino closures could rob American workers of 74 billion dollars in total annual wages.
The terrifying prospect of economic collapse has prompted the Las Vegas Mayor to call out casinos to open mid-May, however, Carolyn Goodman’s call did not get a warm response. With the pandemic claiming the lives of more than 65,000 people in the United States and over 250,000 around the world, her plea was labeled ‘insensitive’ by many.
With no end of the crisis on the horizon, the casino industry has no other option but to adapt. No one can say what the right solution is, but many casinos do see the internet as their savior.
Going Online Is the Right Way to Go
With almost 90% of all Americans being in lockdown, it’s not surprising that online casinos have experienced a boom during the pandemic. Thousands of Americans have switched to online platforms, which, in turn, has created significant profit gains for internet casinos.
Morgan Stanley gaming analyst Thomas Allen has recently shared the results of his research, which show that internet gambling revenues have increased by 66% in New Jersey. Only in March, the Garden State online casinos have made a total revenue of 65 million dollars.
That figure refers only to the revenue made through online casino games such as slots, poker, blackjack, and the like. It does not include sports betting. The reason is simple – professional sports have been on a hiatus during the pandemic, and American gamblers don’t seem too interested in betting on Belarus soccer or Nicaraguan table tennis.
Apart from discussing the rise of online casinos during the pandemic, the Morgan Stanley analyst also touched upon the subject of online gambling legalization.
“We believe the impact of Covid-19 could spur more states to legalize online casinos.”
At the moment, online casinos are legal in only three US states, namely New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. However, Allen believes that the number could go up as a result of the experiences gained during the COVID-19 crisis.
Online Casinos in Post COVID-19 World
Even once the pandemic is over, the situation in the casino industry probably isn’t going to go back to normal straight away. The number of in-casino visits across the United States started dropping weeks before the closures. It wouldn’t be reasonable to assume that people are going to rush back into casinos as soon as they reopen.
Introducing online gambling seems like the right solution to kill two birds with one stone – promote the stay-at-home policy and get a new source of income for the state budget.
The 27 states that have already made land-based casinos legal should be the first in line to do so. With no gambling tax money pouring into the budget, those states seem likely to change their stance on online gambling.