Coronavirus: The imperative of creativity

Online gaming operators have to look for other options and diversify their product portfolio.

With land-based casinos closed and sports seasons suspended almost all over the world, it’s time for companies to be smart and take advantage of what some remote gaming verticals have to offer, in order to keep attracting players and collecting profits.

These are challenging times for the gaming business, with the COVID-19 outbreak directly attacking companies and markets’ finances. With unprecedented global cancellation of major sporting events and the closure of betting shops and land-based casinos for the foreseeable future, companies have to be creative and adapt to this new gaming scene.

Now, it’s the right moment to think outside the box, looking beyond bricks-and-mortar facilities. And while sports betting aren’t current options, there are different gaming verticals to focus, including virtual sports, casino games, poker and eSports, among others. The new trends that correspond to the current situation of the Coronavirus are already being perceived. In the UK, big operators such as GVC and Playtech have confirmed the recent explosion of online casino games by gamblers who, from their homes, need to continue to enjoy exciting gaming experiences. Both companies have reported a clear increase in customers playing online poker, bingo games and virtual racing. This is also being boosted by the integration of gambling apps that are easily accessible through social media. In the U.S., iGaming companies like Fox Bet or Rush Street Interactive are seeing a significant upsurge in the number of players, as well as revenue. Online casino games include virtual slots and roulette, along with poker, played for real money. Other ideas are also possible. For instance, DFS operator DraftKings has been busy finding non-gaming alternatives. That’s why the company has introduced ‘Free to Play Pools’ in which the aim is to guess the answers to questions about major pop culture fixtures, including Survivor, Jeopardy, Top Chef, Shark Tank and more.

In February 2020, Italian iGaming environment showed a 27 percent expansion compared to February 2019, and this number will surely continue to rise in March. Gan, a local iGaming software supplier, released data announcing that it has processed over US$306 million of online bets in Italy for January-February 2020 (+8.4 percent vs. 2019). The same positive revenue trend was being experienced by the 60 licensed Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) in the Philippines, until, a few days ago, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) confirmed the temporary suspension of all POGOs and their service providers (SPs) based in Luzon for the duration of the month-long community quarantine measures imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte. Taking into account this reality, betting and gaming consultancy H2 Gambling Capital asserted an expectation that worldwide online gaming activity will surge in 2020, with the sector shifting from a 13.2 percent to a 15.7 percent share of global gambling revenue.

Knowing that sports betting means the main portion of their income cake, given the impossibility of using this modality due to the worldwide absence of sporting events, online gaming operators have to look for other options and diversify their product portfolio. This is the moment when virtual games and eSports come into the picture. For instance, Virtual Sports are an alternative to real-life events which appeals to sports lovers across the world. EveryMatrix and Oryx Gaming are some experienced companies in this area. With providers including Global Bet, Betradar, Kiron, NSoft, Golden Race and Leap Gaming, EveryMatrix has expanded its Virtual Sports catalog to be available to sportsbook and online casino operators via integration to its CasinoEngine platform. For its part, Oryx Gaming (a Bragg Gaming Group company) has an extensive range of virtual sports, lottery betting, live dealer and casino content, all in the Oryx Hub platform.

eSports betting is another possibility to engage sports fans and also younger demographics of players. Estimations say that, prior to the Coronavirus, as much as US$14 billion was expected to be wagered on eSports activity this year. Now, that number will almost certainly be much higher. eSports has the potential to fill the gap of non-sports betting possibilities. Sportsbooks companies can attract the eSports audience to their websites with reliable and extensive odds coverage. In that sense, UltraPlay highlights for their wide coverage of 251 eSports events, 90 percent of them with live odds. As a consequence of Coronavirus, most of the local area network (LAN) tournaments were reorganized to be held online. Peter Ivanov, Head of Trading at UltraPlay, commented: “We experienced a 30 percent increased turnover only in the first five days after the traditional sports shutdown. This is growing on a day-to-day basis as more people get involved.”

In difficult times, with limited options and declining markets, with a global health crisis as serious as Coronavirus, playing at home is the right decision. This is where the operators and providers of remote gambling modalities must aim to take advantage of this growth opportunity, being responsible and offering people a chance for joy and emotion in the face of the momentary adverse context that we are experiencing.