Relying on past strengths is going to be critical in navigating the unprecedented challenge of the unknown that the industry currently finds itself, states Dominic Mansour, CEO of Bragg Gaming.

I am writing this from my home office, having just driven through London’s eerily quiet roads and I can’t help to think that the current situation feels like something out of a Hollywood movie. Every passing day, feels more surreal than the last as the world reacts to the outbreak of COVID-19.

For our industry, the world as we know it has changed significantly. It’s hardly been three weeks since the widespread cancellation of sporting events, but it feels like such a long time ago when we had some professional fixtures to watch. Cheltenham came and went. And now, silence. 

Times are bad for sports fans, sports businesses and multiple related industries, especially after the announcements to postpone the vital events due to take place this year, the Euros, Wimbledon and the Olympic Games. Listed sports betting operators have seen their stocks crash by over 75 per cent in the last weeks as a result.

At time of writing, we’re probably still weeks away from the peak of COVID-19 in the UK with the government saying it can be up to six months until we can expect life to go back to normal. We do not yet know when professional elite sport can begin again, but what is clear is that the industry is going to have a longer storm to weather than we originally thought. 

In this difficult climate … the industry also has a big responsibility”

Betting on the weather is reported to have increased significantly, along with other silly novelty bets. Although it will fill the gap to some extent, it is not enough for the avid sports fan who follows the Premier League or the NFL and bet on the outcome of the season. Virtuals on the other hand offer the most appealing alternative and have been the biggest beneficiary from this chaos, with many suppliers adding new events to their offering to fill the void that the cancellation of all major sports has left.

The broadcast of a virtual grand national on the UK’s ITV television channel this past weekend was a great idea and generated a lot of interest. Online casino and poker will naturally grow too during this time as players look for other forms of entertainment. We expect Bragg and Oryx Gaming will benefit from this shift to online given the majority of the business’ income comes from the online casino sector.

Whether our partners are operators that are dependent on sports betting but cross sell into casino, or dedicated online casinos (think Mr Green, Leo Vegas), there will be a natural uplift from the change in people’s behaviour during the global lockdown. Over the last few weeks we have already seen a significant spike in virtual sports and lottery games available through Oryx. 

In this difficult climate when operators are facing the biggest challenge of our time, the industry also has a big responsibility. Whilst people are now home and have more time than ever before to play online casino games, there’s also a need to ensure they continue to do so within their means. We’re heading into a big global recession and there’s going to be a lot more people out of work than we’ve seen for years.

Encouraging them onto gambling sites is fine for a break from the monotony of home lock down and hopefully will provide some much-needed entertainment, but let’s make sure it’s done responsibly. These are unprecedented times and the industry has to be more innovative than ever to survive the storm until we can go back to business as usual. Luckily the betting and gaming industry is known for thinking outside the box and for using technology to push the boundaries. This time will be no different.