Online gambling has increased during the Covid-19 lockdowns, but this has raised ethical questions regarding addiction.

The effect of Covid-19 on the industry has thus far been catastrophic and will continue to be for the short-medium term. In North America, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding Las Vegas. Its mayor has volunteered the city as a control group for social distancing measures in order to quicken the process of reopening the city. Casinos are the cornerstone of the city’s economy and is entirely reliant upon the success of the sector.

Online casinos in states in the US where online gambling is legal have seen soaring levels of custom. New Jersey’s Department of Gaming Enforcement reports online Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) up 64.4%.

GGR figures will inevitably take a hit in all areas

However, increases to the online sector won’t make up for the losses in brick-and-mortar stores, with losses of overall GGR dropping by 54.74%. Similarly, in Pennsylvania GGR from February to March dropped from $304m to $153m, a fall of 49.67%.

Online betting company 888 Holdings saw its shares increase by almost 32%. This after it announced its Casino and Poker games had increased as a result of more customers heading online amid the pandemic.

However, sports betting made up 16% of the company’s revenue in 2019. This will be impacted massively through 2020. Even with increases to its online games, revenues for 888 and bookmakers across the industry will struggle to recoup the missed profits from 2020’s major sporting events.

Concerns in the UK regarding addiction as online gambling rises

MPs are concerned people will flock to online gambling ahead of the closures to betting shops in the UK. With the cancellation of major sporting events not just in the UK, but around the world, regular gamblers who would usually spend hundreds on gambling each month have moved to betting on virtual sports, or online casinos and games.

This could spark worrying times ahead for the industry as policymakers in government look to set restrictions. These could be not just for the short term, but with effects that could linger long after the pandemic.

It is clear that the lines will be blurred during this pandemic as to what is and isn’t ethical in the casino and gaming industry.

UK Labour MP Carolyn Harris has said that companies pointing customers towards computer-generated events, or obscure sporting events, in which the gamblers have no knowledge of the sport, point to the fact that the person in question has a gambling problem.

A survey carried out by Clean Up Gambling Campaign found that 39% of regular gamblers had gambled more than they did before the Covid-19 outbreak. Some 25% said their levels were the same, with 34% saying they had gambled less.

Significantly, 40% of these also believe the government should do more to make it difficult to gamble online. Around 34% of respondents also believed they were spending too much money on gambling or were developing an addiction.

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