As business owners and employees in the UK await news of when the lockdown restrictions will be lifted, Steve Donoughue – a leading gambling consultant – has warned that the retail gambling industry is unlikely to fully recover in the post-COVID-19 world.
A shift in behaviour
Mr Donoughue believes that the enforced changes gamblers have had to make due to the coronavirus will have a lasting impact. While some people will return and carry on as before, there will be many others who prefer the advantages of online gambling such as live casino games now that they’ve become accustomed to it.
Speaking specifically about retail betting shops in the UK, Mr Donoughue explained, “I can’t see it going back to the way it was. There will always be a market for retail sports betting. But will it be sufficient for the number of shops we have now? I doubt it. I predict a 50% drop over the next few years.”
This news will surely concern the country’s biggest brands, including William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral, Betfred, and Paddy Power. They collectively operate more than 5,000 betting shops in the UK and Ireland.
Land-based or online casino?
Mr Donoughue didn’t expand on what he thinks the future holds for the hundreds of physical casinos located up and down the country. However, many people connected to this industry have spoken out.
Real-life casino gambling is a more entertaining and social experience than sports betting, so it probably will not suffer as much. But, to believe that customers will come flocking back in as soon as restrictions are lifted is naive. A lot depends on the length of the lockdown as well. The longer casino gamblers remain in the online arena, playing with live dealers and enjoying the cost savings and convenience this brings, the harder it will be to attract them back to a physical casino.
There’s no question that online casino operators in the UK have benefited from this unfortunate situation. Leading live dealer casino games provider, Evolution Gaming, reported a jump in profits for the first quarter of 2020. It put the increase in activity down to a combination of lockdowns and that there is no sports betting available, so customers are looking for alternatives.
Evolution, and other live casino companies, will be hoping that they can keep a large percentage of the players they’ve managed to attract over the past four to six weeks to casinos like Mr Green and Spin Casino. Of course, physical casino owners will be pulling out all the stops to get them to return to their establishments. It promises to be an intriguing period in the history of gambling in the UK.