How The COVID Pandemic Affected the Canadian iGaming Industry
The COVID pandemic was declared a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 30th January 2020. This announcement was followed by an unprecedented impact of Covid on human health and different industries. One of the sectors that were hit hard was the Canadian iGaming industry. The pandemic saw a plummet in gambling revenue as a whole, with other iGaming sectors suffering for the better part of 2020 and 2021. This resource will give an in-depth encounter of how the iGaming industry was impacted and some of the trends that emerged.
1. Migration to Online Gambling
The first wave of COVID-19 was adverse, and to mitigate its spread, the Canadian government ordered a nationwide lockdown. This saw the closure of all public entertainment centers, including land-based casinos. A few days into the lockdown, gambling sites saw an increment of new sign-ups. Players wanted to continue with their gambling activities, and the best way to do so was by opting to play at the top rated online casinos in Canada. Some operators confirmed that the gambling sector grew by about 77% throughout 2020. The casino industry led with many new members compared to the sports betting industry – especially with all the games being on pause.
However, the migration to online gambling was not all beneficial as the industry started experiencing drawbacks. For instance, Canada registered a high number of players with gambling problems. Many Canucks that increased their gambling activities attributed the case to boredom and plenty of free time. In response, the Canadian government took some measures to curb the vice. For instance, Loto-Québec, one of the biggest lotteries in Canada, stopped media advertisements. On the other hand, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) made its self-exclusion services available to everyone in need. They also increased the accessibility of their GameSense program to Canadians. These social programs are free to anyone who wants to practice responsible gambling.
2. An Increase of iGaming Revenue
The iGaming industry has been contributing significantly to Canada’s economy and the general revenue of the global iGaming sector. Overall, the annual iGaming industry’s revenue contribution has been approximately $31 billion. However, there has been a spike during the pandemic, with researchers expecting the numbers to increase further. The continuous growth of the gaming industry in Canada and the US is catalyzed by various factors, including the convenience of online gaming compared to physical establishments.
According to a survey conducted in May 2020, approximately 35% of Canadians agreed that they spent too much money gambling online. Around 27% also agreed they may have developed a gambling problem due to spending too much time gambling online. These are only a few reasons that led to the significant increase in the iGaming revenue. Lastly, new signees with little to no online gambling experience began chasing their losses, which made them spend more money placing bets and playing online casino games.
3. Increase in Virtual Sports Betting
Virtual sports betting has been living under the shadow of actual sports for quite some time. However, the pandemic led to a different turn of events as the demand for virtual sports increased considerably, after several services have slowed down due to COVID. Virtual sports betting activities intensified by 30%, and many sportsbooks in Canada started offering the gambling service. One of the factors that led to the rise of virtual sports betting is the postponement of different sporting events. For instance, in March 2020, NHL tweeted the pause of the 2019-2020 season. On the other hand, the MLB canceled the spring training and delayed the regular season. Lastly, NBA suspended the regular season due to the pandemic. This was the case across all major sports, including football, one of Canada’s popular sports. Sportsbook operators, therefore, turned to RNG-controlled games like virtual sports to keep clients entertained.
4. COVID-19 Led to The Increase Overall Online Gaming Sessions
By the time the first wave of COVID-19 was entering the critical phase, many Canucks were working from home. This increased the number of individuals playing online casino games and the amount of time spent playing these games. It is one of the main reasons the iGaming market value skyrocketed during the pandemic. It was indicated that extensive gaming activity was experienced across different age groups, with the young and older populations being the most prevalent gamers. This is the first time the Canadian industry saw the rise of gaming parents.One of the main reasons why people opt for online gaming is due to boredom
With little to do at home, playing casino games and placing sports bets were among the ways people entertained themselves. Additionally, online gaming was used to connect with loved ones. Moreover, with the rise of the unemployment rate, people played games to remain occupied and relieve stress. These factors contributed to Canadians’ increased amount of time playing online games. The trend is not expected to stop during normalcy because different industries are making strategic changes that may favor the continuity of online gambling.
5. Emergence of New Trends in the iGaming Industry
The lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic by major stakeholders of the iGaming industry led to the emergence of new trends. For instance, there was the introduction of virtual and augmented reality, making online gaming more captivating. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, mobile gaming was the most trending technology in the iGaming scene. After all, the introduction of mobile casino sites meant people would gamble on the move. Right now, mobile gaming has taken a back seat, and virtual and augmented reality is currently the hottest trend in the gambling scene. Some casinos currently offer VR games with 3D avatars, live interactions, and gesture imitation features. This makes the online gaming experience better and more realistic. Another notable trend is the introduction of smartwatch gaming.
This may seem too extreme, but smartwatch gambling is another trend that has become common in the iGaming scene. Since 1972, smartwatches have undergone a significant evolution to the point that you can now gamble on your smartwatch. Operators like Playtech are at the forefront of designing smartwatch casino games. This feature increases portability and the amount of time spent on online casino sites. However, smartwatch games don’t increase your winning chances since the games and winning percentages in Canada remain the same whether you are using your desktop or your smartwatch. The trend makes online games accessible so punters can play their favorite slots on the move so long as they have an internet connection.
6. Increased Access of Casinos in Restricted Areas
Unlike the USA, casino gaming and gambling in Canada is legal in different provinces and territories. However, some states like Nova Scotia only started accepting gambling recently. After the COVID pandemic, the government noticed a complete decline in revenue in some sectors and increased revenue in the iGaming industry. This made them revise some iGaming legislation to balance the government revenue of affected regions such as Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and Ontario, thus explaining the prevalence of top Ontario casinos. Besides, the iGaming industry expects the federal and provincial governments to be more lenient towards the sector by reducing taxes and including the iGaming industry on the budget. After all, apart from increasing the general revenue of the country, the iGaming industry increased employment rates during the COVID-19 pandemic to manage the workload.
From the information above, it is evident that the COVID pandemic affected the Canadian industry greatly. First, the pandemic saw an increase in online gambling activities and shortly after led to the gambling addiction of some Canucks. Besides, it led to new trends, which have helped evolve the online gambling scene placing it on a new level. Lastly, the pandemic saw the laxity of gambling laws in some territories and provinces in Canada to increase revenue at the federal and provincial levels. All these impacts are backed by research and findings of reputable institutions in Canada. As the nation returns to normalcy, some impacts are expected to fade off with time, while others are anticipated to persist.