Since December 2019, the world is facing an unprecedented situation connected to the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting in Wuhan, a province in China, the infection quickly spread first across Europe and later around the globe. Thousands of families are suffering from being ill or because of losing their jobs.
From a macroeconomic point of view, it’s even worst. Most of the small businesses are closed and many restrictions were applied for manufacturers. With the export and import being stopped in fact the whole trading chain has been interrupted on multiple levels. However, the lockdown has a positive effect on some industries. And while some of them are vital like pharmaceutical and food deliveries, there are others that might risk people’s well-being.
Even in a time deprived of the emergency state, sports betting and virtual gambling have been attractive for millions. Too attractive some might say. Usually, gamblers have to combine it with their other daily activities and that creates balance. But in times like this, many are forced to stay at home and are easily bored. So, it is natural for them to increase the time spent on online casinos and betting platforms.
On the other hand, the iGaming industry saw a problem and an opportunity. Indeed, those companies were also quite affected because of the suspension of all major leagues. Sports like football, basketball, volleyball, etc. have been put on hold. All this is leaving bookmakers without one of their main business branches. And they had to compensate by promoting other divisions like eSports betting and casino games like poker texas hold’em. Such commercials are flooding the webspace, social networks and even the TV.
All of the above would not be so anxious if we were not talking about a highly addictive subject. Games like online roulette, for example, are easy to play, intriguing and with potential for high profits. Actually, that’s not true. Without a proper approach, you will probably lose all of your chips in a few rounds. During the past months, there are a lot of stories for people that were hooked and suffered significant losses. Each of the online casino sites provide huge welcome bonuses in order to keep your attention on their ad while scrolling on Facebook or Instagram. In order to get 500$ on top, you have to fund your account with the same amount. And many of them are not explaining well enough the wagering requirements. Without fulfilling them actually you will get nothing as a bonus and will only risk your own money.
There are many people that used to visit land-based casinos. With the current ban, those are now closed until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, you have to turn to an online gambling site. This online playing environment can deepen the problem. It is much simpler to fund your account once you lose the available credits. Just press a button and you can continue playing on your online blackjack table. You don’t have to waste time to travel, it’s kind of a shortcut.
Gaming addiction could definitely be a huge issue in a crisis like the one we are experiencing. Every week there are reports of people with severe financialpoke problems because of irresponsible gambling. Their incomes are most probably decreased or even terminated. All this can reflect not only in losing their jobs but also homes without having the possibility to service their mortgages.
What can be done?
Some non-profit organizations already sent notes to local administrative centers and major regulators like the UK Gambling Commission. They insist on restrictions to be applied in order to prevent further escalation.
Some European countries came to a solution with a ban on gambling ads entirely or partially. For example, in April, all members of London’s “Betting and Gaming Council” voted and removed all TV and radio broadcasts related to online gambling.
In other countries, more liberal approaches were chosen like limiting advertisements during the small hours only.
There are groups created in order to encourage people to face the problem and fight through it. Still, you have first to admit your addiction. Experts are saying that it is not mandatory online casinos’ aggressive strategy to be the main problem. Actually vulnerable people would probably do the same even without the additional pushup.
The lockdown we are into is definitely stimulating online gaming operators. They see the situation as an opportunity to increase their profit. The business model is actually like in any other economic segment. The exception here is that playing for fun can easily turn into an obsession. And no mania is good. Maybe the gaming industry must finally start thinking about how to protect people and help them be more responsible. That will increase their popularity and prestige instead of being hunted for ruining the society.