There’s no question that the global pandemic has taken its toll on businesses big and small, leaving no sector untouched, including the gambling industry. Both land-based and online betting has felt the profit pinch of COVID-19. That said, physical betting shops are certainly taking the bigger hit, which is likely to lead to an increase in online betting, particularly mobile betting, that will continue into 2021.
William Hill is closing more betting shops
Speaking of betting shops taking a hit, recent news from the BBC has reported that William Hill will be closing 119 shops. According to the UK sportsbook giant, 119 of its High Street betting shops will not be re-opening after the coronavirus outbreak forced them to shut down. Approximately 300 employees were affected, with the majority of them being redeployed elsewhere.
William Hill has 1,500 outlets across the UK and the company was not expecting that they would all survive, knowing that customers would not return in the numbers seen prior to the pandemic. The impact of the lockdown and the lack of sporting events for customers to punt on, has seen the operator’s revenues drop by a third to £554 million.
The betting shop closures also do not come as much of a surprise since the operator said last year (2019) that it would shut 700 shops after the UK government announced new regulations that significantly cut the size of a stake in fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs). The max stake size for these terminals that can be found in betting shops was slashed from £100 to £2.
That being said, despite shop closures, in 2021William Hill is likely to continue targeting its iGaming market as it has seen a spike in consumers turning to online gaming during the COVID-19 lockdown. Moreover, it also plans to further expand in the United States to regain some of its lost revenue.
Mobile betting revenue likely to increase
A greater focus on online betting is likely to be the case for many bookmakers around the world and in the UK, not just William Hill. In fact, more and more UK bookies are not only offering mobile web versions of their online sportsbooks, but dedicated mobile betting apps as well.
The reality is that more punters are choosing mobile as their preferred betting choice. Not only is it more convenient, but better technology and the increasing availability of cost-effective mobile applications throughout the world has spiked growth in recent years. Not to mention, many of today’s punters are millennials, who’ve grown up with the technology.
Using the United States as an example, according to a report from the Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association, in the US state of New Jersey (which leads all states with the exception of Nevada in sports betting revenue) 82.5% of all sports betting revenue comes from mobile and online sports betting.
Experts are projecting that mobile will be the much more dominant method of sports betting throughout the country. It is expected that mobile will average 72% of the total volume of bets placed in states that authorize betting activities and this number is expected to increase over time.
Today, consumers are demanding greater convenience, and this is not only seen in US statistics, but also in the UK. According to the Gambling Commissions industry statistics that cover the period between October 2018 – September 2019, there was an increase in online gross gambling yield (GGY). The total GGY for remote (online) betting was £2.1 billion, a 4.3% increase from April 2018 – March 2019.
Online and mobile gambling to continue gaining popularity
In spite of restricted FOBT stake sizes, the pandemic, and the ever-constant threat of greater gambling regulation restrictions in the UK, sportsbooks are finding ways to recoup their lost revenue by growing their online gambling markets nationally and abroad.
During the months that football and other major sports leagues were shutdown, bookies understood the value of diversifying their betting markets and their gambling products. From offering casino entertainment to virtual sports and eSports, punters were given new avenues to explore, and they did.
There’s no doubt that bookies will continue to nurture their online gambling markets related to both betting and casinos to continue to appeal to their mobile consumers in 2021. Additionally, sportsbooks that can expand overseas into the US market will take advantage of this opportunity as the US is expected to be a hotbed for sports betting. Even executives from MGM Resorts, Mohegan Sun and Hard Rock projected last year that the US sports market will hit $8 billion by 2025.
As remote gambling continues to excel and grow around the world, betting apps will only become more popular, which means mobile betting is likely to be on the rise next year and beyond.
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