According to research undertaken by affiliate BonusFinder.com, the closure of US land-based gaming facilities and the cancellation of live sport due to the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a 100 percent increase in internet searches for ‘online casinos’ throughout North America.
The study, which analysed Google Trends from February to the end of March this year, showed a dramatic increase in players looking for ‘online casino’ following land-based slot machine shutdowns and rescheduling sporting events.
The tipping point, the affiliate said, came on March 12 when more players in the US were looking for ‘online casino’ than ‘sports betting’ with numbers doubling in the next two weeks.
Seventeen US states have legalised sports betting with just five, including Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania opening igaming, after the abolition of PASPA in August 2018. In February 2020, there was more than $1.7bn in combined sports betting and online gaming ‘handle’ in several US states.
In 2019, New Jersey alone created $482.7 m in igaming Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR), and $52 m in February 2020, according to VIXIO GamblingCompliance.
With sportsbook handle predicted to decline significantly in March and beyond, there will be immediate attempts by operators and states to reduce losses and make up shortfalls. BonusFinder has indicated that the increase in online casino activity might lead lawmakers to consider fast-tracking igaming in states that already control betting.
For an example, iDevelopment & Economic Association, an industry trade association, is now encouraging states to allow online casino games to offset declining revenue, including exploring how governors can use emergency powers to allow online casinos to run quickly.
Bonusfinder.com managing director Fintan Costello said: “The five states that have opened igaming are seeing month-on-month revenue rises with New Jersey leading the way. It has a robust and responsible framework in place to protect players and has shown that online and offline casinos can operate together within the same territory and consistently generate very healthy returns.
“This is a wake-up call for the 12 states that have already established an online sports betting regime. They should take note of the enormous interest in online casino from players and use this momentum to legislate igaming before we start seeing players turning to unlicensed, offshore sites and the black market.
“The demand will only continue to increase as this unprecedented situation continues, therefore now is the time to focus on providing best-in-class, regulated real-money online casino games that players can enjoy responsibly and that can also help state governments make up revenue shortfalls.”