Londoners more likely to gamble online in the New Year

We’re meant to say: “Happy New Year,” but as 2022 gets into full swing, we must bring you down to earth with a bump because it also marks year three of the coronavirus pandemic. With the Omicron variant spreading more rapidly than the previous variants of the virus, and the fear of yet more new strains on the horizon, it seems that COVID is here to stay, at least for the time being.

COVID-19 has had an unparalleled impact on the whole world – not just our health but the economy, too.

According to Government figures, since April 2021, there have been approximately 149 million confirmed cases and over 3.1 million deaths internationally. To help to control the spread of the virus, restrictions have been placed on social contact, while good housekeeping and personal hygiene practices, such as hand washing and wearing face masks, are engrained in our brains.  

Here in the UK, the prime minister announced a requirement for people to stay at home and for all nonessential shops and business premises to close on 23 March 2020. Amongst those non-essential business premises that shut were hospitality venues, including those associated with the gambling industry. In a vibrant city like London, that has had a significant effect, because those premises hardest hit included:

Betting shops
Casinos
Bingo halls
Arcades
Live racing venues, like dog tracks

This, of course, limited the population’s access to gambling in London to online platforms or the National Lottery. Instead, many chose to stay in and simply binge-watch TV for a few months.

In London, this was a double whammy. Although the city has a large population that enjoys occasional visits to a casino, it also has tourism to thank for much of its entertainment revenue.International visitors to the UK fell drastically in 2020 and again in 2021 with a 73% and 97% drop respectively, according to statistics published by Visit Britain and ONS (The Office for National Statistics). This had a knockon effect in cities across the UK, but London, in particular, was hit harder than most.

The capital city has always been the epicentre for entertainment in the United Kingdom, with the West End being famous for itstheatres, restaurants and, of course, licensed casinos.

The city’s once busy gaming and gambling establishments, such as the Hippodrome and Empire casinos in Leicester Square, or Aspers in Stratford, were forced shut. But even after reopening, albeit with some restrictions, they have seen major drops in footfall.

While bad news for brick-and-mortar venues, many of those gamers staying at home have been playing at online casinos instead.

A study by the UK Government on the effects that COVID has had on the gaming industry was published in 2021. Of 537 online gamblers, the results found that 30% were gambling more online, 32% were gambling about the same, and 37% were gambling less compared to their activities before lockdown.

Another study in May last year by the University of Bristol found that gamblers were now six times more likely to gamble online.

With those sorts of startling statistics, the UK Gambling Commission halted gambling advertisements for a period of approximately six weeks during the first lockdown in the hope that this would help those with an underlying gambling addiction.

Whilst some experts recognised that by closing land-based gambling venues, some forms of gambling would reduce, there were concerns that people would move to gamble online, and this, in turn, could lead to a long-term shift to online gambling.

The internet is full of gaming sites, with many not even licensed or regulated at all. However, there are numerous licensed online casinos available to UK players, where it is safe for them to play because they are fully regulated. With city-centre casinos offlimits during the pandemic, players can still enjoy a realistic gaming experience with live dealer tables online for games such as roulette, blackjack and baccarat, as well as online slot machine games.

Gambling can be tremendous fun, so long as you know your limits and always use a trusted, licensed and regulated online casino or sportsbook. You don’t get quite the same experience that you do at a landbased casino, but many sites try to replicate the thrills you would experience with exciting music, flashing lights, bonuses and jackpots. It’s all intended to make sure that your online gaming experience is one to remember.

The technical and customer experience know-how explains why people who want to gamble can continue to do so, even when they can’t visit, or do not want to visit, a London casino while the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc.

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