COVID-19 Leads to Mass Casino Closures: Changing our Approach to Gaming and other Industries in an Online World

We need to start anticipating a new reality. The outbreak and spread of the COVID-19 virus has severely impacted a huge swath of the global marketplace. Airlines, hotels and the tourism industry worldwide have experienced huge drops in revenue, due in large part to governmental mandates. In a world where markets are ever more connected, thanks to the internet, companies are quickly devising ways to work around the pandemic and ensure that profits do not dip below crucial thresholds that will lead to layoffs and closures.

A number of industries are stepping up to address the now rapidly growing market of quarantined individuals who are finding themselves sheltering for weeks at a time in isolation. There is a palpable cabin fever all across the world. People under lockdown are not only desperate for distractions – they need them more than ever right now. Recreational activities are a key component of how we live and express ourselves in the best of times and being able to hold onto those ways of life may well keep many of us sane during this turbulent era.

One market that appears primed to help people stay safe and healthy while still providing a welcome distraction right now is online gaming and casinos. Casinos have, of course, being closed for the time being due to the clear and present danger of mass exposure to patrons and casino staff. However, online casino gaming has grown immensely in popularity over the past couple of decades, tracking right alongside the rise of many other industries that have adapted and expanded with internet advancements. To put the potential benefit of online gaming into context, let us investigate the coronavirus pandemic’s current impact on the casino industry.

In Nevada, the home state for Las Vegas and Reno, America’s two most well-known gambling cities, all casinos have been ordered closed for the time being. Most casinos in other American states, including the east coast’s Atlantic City, New Jersey, have also been shut down, as well as casinos in Canada. Outside of North America, Australia, Europe and South America have all reported sweeping country- and continent-wide shutdowns of their gaming establishments.

Unsurprisingly the Chinese region of Macau, known for a large casino industry, has been hit extremely hard by the pandemic, as the coronavirus spread first within mainland China. Starting in early February, the country mandated a shutdown of all of Macau’s casinos. Macau is known as the world’s largest gambling destination for both tourists and Chinese natives, so one can imagine how devastating these closures have been for the local economy. In fact, current projections estimate that Macau has endured an 88 percent drop in revenue, just because of the halt of the casino industry.

We can already track the positive shift toward online gaming in the wake of the coronavirus’ spread. As would be expected, the closure of Macau’s casinos has led to a 90 percent increase in online gambling. FOX Bet, a gambling mobile app, has reported a nearly doubled rate of new customer sign-ups for online casino and poker. Looking at this increase, one can extrapolate and imagine the valuable tax revenue that governments (and, by proxy, its citizens) could enjoy upon legalizing online gambling.

Those in the casino industry that haven’t already adopted online options would do well to start exploring these alternatives, and exploring them fast. First, one must take into consideration all the logistical challenges posed by online gaming of this sort. Strict regional regulations dominate the conversation when sorting through these challenges. One of the most important facets that many people may not even know to consider is in geolocation services. What this essentially means is giving casinos and online gaming businesses the ability to legally and accurately control gamers permissions, based on a variety of factors. Knowing where gamers are (i.e. their location) is key to allowing or restricting access.

Controlling this access often means the difference between retaining the right to run a casino. But it could also mean the difference between losing and maintaining revenue. Should severely-affected regions such as Macau be allowed to conduct online gambling, this could preserve otherwise lost money. From an economic standpoint, the geolocation technology services offered by a company such as LocationSmart have the potential to grant the casino industry a lifeline in the face of a disaster like the world is currently facing. We need to anticipate the need for both remote work, but also remote services and offerings. We have the capabilities afforded us by the internet. Now industries need to start stepping up and utilizing those capabilities to protect the global economy.