If the start of 2020 and the first week of 2021 in the US has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected. This means that predicting what will happen over the next 12 months is a challenge. In 2020, a full closure of land-based betting locations around the world could not have been foreseen and whilst the pandemic is ongoing the betting industry is still looking ahead and hoping to not be too far off the mark.
Sports betting – Euro 2021
For several months in 2020, there was a total shutdown of the major sporting events that had been planned, from the Tokyo Olympics and Euro 2020 (the European Soccer Championships) postponed to 2021 as well as Formula One, IndyCar, NASCAR and other auto races cancelled along with a vast array of other sporting events. By mid-2020 major leagues returned to play and sports betting has become more popular, stepping in as a new form of entertainment to many who have lost alternative forms of entertainment from the arts and theatre sector.
Thanks to major events being postponed, rather than cancelled, 2021 is predicted to be a year of vast sports betting should these go ahead as planned. There are online betting sites that allow international bets even if they are registered in just one country. The UK has some of the strongest licensing regulations, but punters can still place a bet if they are resident in North America and some other countries too.
Prior to the pandemic, the expectation amongst several CEOs in the betting industry was that Euro 2020 would be the biggest sports betting event in the history of the sector. This has not changed despite the circumstances, and it is expected that 2021 will be a year of further growth in sports betting because professional organisations have established strong testing processes and growth is expected to at least equal that seen in 2019 across all sports, from archery to wrestling.
Mergers and acquisitions
There will inevitably be mergers and acquisitions taking place in 2021. This is not just with regards to those companies unable to deal with the fall-out of the pandemic, but also because of increased competition and more regulatory requirements from different jurisdictions. These mergers have already begun with big-name deals involving online gambling as well as land-based gambling resorts. With the land-based businesses suffering the most in 2020, the power of the online market is likely to accelerate and be consolidated like never before.
Land-based casinos and betting shops
Land-based casinos and betting shops had a terrible year in 2020 and it is hard to predict what 2021 will offer with Covid-19 and the variant coronavirus causing havoc in many parts of the world, including the closure of US casinos and shops in Europe. However, once casinos are able to open, the signs are optimistic. When land-based casinos were allowed to operate in the US under certain restrictions they were able to profit far more than originally expected. However, the US, UK and Macau among others are likely to see slow progress in 2021 and true recovery may only begin for brick-and-mortar sites in the betting industry worldwide in 2022 as this sector aims to return to pre-COVID levels.
The betting industry continued to grow online in 2020, at a rate of around 11 per cent and this is forecast to continue into 2021. In some sectors of the industry, there is expected to be a stronger link between digital and brick-and-mortar betting, whilst others will transition more fuller to online gaming and gambling. What has become clear is that whilst land-based casinos offer a form of entertainment unlike any other, more people involved in the industry are advocates of online casinos than ever before.
Online betting cannot be halted
Whilst 2020 taught business leaders that land-based industries can be halted by extraordinary events, online better cannot be halted in the same way, even when policy changes are being implemented at the same time. This is particularly true for casino games and similar that do not rely on a calendar of sporting events. Regulators may even become involved in online gaming in Macau this year, though it remains uncertain how possible this might be.
Online gambling provides state revenue
Online gambling has provided much-needed revenue for states that have suffered a loss of income from land-based casinos during lockdowns. It is expected that revenue from online gambling will add to that garnered from land-based casinos that are open, rather than replace the revenue, which will make the betting industry an important part of economic recovery from the pandemic.
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