The closure of US land-based gaming venues and cancellation of live sport due to the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a 100% rise in internet searches for ‘online casino’ across North America according to research undertaken by affiliate BonusFinder.com.
The research, which examined Google Trends from February to the end of March this year, revealed a sharp spike in players searching for ‘online casino’ following land-based venues switching off slot machines and sports events being rescheduled.
The tipping point, said the affiliate, came on March 12 when more US players searched for ‘online casino’ than ‘sports betting’ with numbers doubling in the following two weeks.
Since the repeal of PASPA in August 2018, 17 US states have regulated sports betting with only five, including Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania opening up igaming. Combined sports betting and online casino ‘handle’ across those US states was more than $1.7bn in February 2020.
According to VIXIO GamblingCompliance, New Jersey alone generated $482.7m in igaming Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) in 2019 and $52m in February 2020.
With sportsbook handle expected to dramatically shrink in March and beyond, operators and states will be urgently seeking to mitigate losses and make up shortfalls. BonusFinder has suggested that the surge in online casino interest could prompt lawmakers in states that have already regulated betting to consider fast-tracking igaming.
By way of example, industry trade group iDevelopment & Economic Association is already urging states to allow online casino games to replace disappearing revenue, including exploring how governors can use emergency powers to quickly allow online casinos to operate.
Fintan Costello, Managing Director, Bonusfinder.com, said: “The five states that have opened igaming are seeing month-on-month revenue rises with New Jersey leading the way. It has a robust and responsible framework in place to protect players and has shown that online and offline casinos can operate together within the same territory and consistently generate very healthy returns.
“This is a wake-up call for the 12 states that have already established an online sports betting regime. They should take note of the enormous interest in online casino from players and use this momentum to legislate igaming before we start seeing players turning to unlicensed, offshore sites and the black market.
“The demand will only continue to increase as this unprecedented situation continues, therefore now is the time to focus on providing best-in-class, regulated real-money online casino games that players can enjoy responsibly and that can also help state governments make up revenue shortfalls.”