The Sports Betting Market and COVID-19: What Does the Future Hold?

Unibet COVID mask

For many people who like a flutter on the football or the horses, the COVID-19 pandemic has been increasingly tough. The loss of not only one of your major social activities, but one of your most enjoyable habits, is a hard thing to take. It’s becoming harder and harder to find something to bet on. You can only place a bet on political outcomes or virtual sports for so long. More often than not, you simply crave the real thing – but, sadly, it’s going to be a while until we get the real thing again.

COVID-19 has, for the most part, brought an end to all organised major sport. It’s also even limited things like combat sports, given the close proximity to one another. While some sports are opening back up, with the German Bundesliga expected to resume in the next week or two, other sports have fallen away entirely. While this leaves the sports themselves in a tough spot, it also leaves an indirect ally – the sports betting industry – in a very bad place. What does the future look like?

In summary, it’s not looking good. While major companies such as William Hill, Unibet, Betsafe and the like should be able to survive, the smaller sports betting chains could be in big trouble. This comes down to a few factors that are expected to come up in the next few months, or even years.

Punters will have less money

COVID-19 is having a massive impact on the kind of sports betting that we can do because people simply have less money. With unemployment rising rapidly and many governments looking to cut away from furloughing nationwide, we could see many people have less money to spend.

This means two things – one, they will be placing less bets. Two, they will be placing bets with ‘big’ companies who they feel are more likely to actually pay out. With less money to play with, it’s only natural that bettors will gravitate towards the big names out there. Given the precarious nature of the financial world, can you really be sure that your local bookie is going to be able to make good on a five-figure winning?

Bookies will have to offer better deals

One thing that is going to rise from this, though, is bookies having to basically give away bets to get you back in the door. While the competitive size of the market might shrink, we can already see lots of bookies offering crazy deals to get you back and betting. If they offer enough incentive, they can manage their losses and keep a strong player base.

However, expect to see reductions in things like the wagering needs for freebie deals and also a massive upswing in free bets, moneyback offers, and super odds. It’s just the way the industry is going to go – but this is likely to be something only big-name bookies can afford to do, widening the gap further still.

While the eSports market is thriving, not every independent bookie can offer access to this market. This means even more disparities between the haves and the have nots.

Gamblers might find other things to do

Another worrying sign for the industry is that with many gamblers simply not having a chance to play their favourite sports betting experiences, they might go elsewhere. As mentioned above, virtual sports is on the rise in a big way and this could see many people who were once fervent sports betters never return. If you’ve just spent the best part of 2020 without your favourite football team, for example, it might be hard to make the same space in your schedule when ‘normality’ returns.

That is a big problem for bookies. It’s going to likely create a smaller market to target, and also is likely to have a lasting impact on the quality of what can actually be offered to people.
In short, we are now in a position whereby the market is set to shrink. With companies unable to utilise the massive player base that once existed, sports betting is about to enter a very tumultuous period.

However, is it all bad?

One thing that has been noticed, though, is that regular betters and gamblers are betting more, not less. This means that while we might see people step away from the market, meaning less people to target for smaller companies, those who do stick around might invest more than ever!

It’s these factors that are going to have a massive controlling impact on the sports betting market. We are entering unchartered waters. The online sports betting industry has only ever really known growth thanks to the mass use of things like mobile apps and mobile devices. Now, though, with a new challenge impacting on every industry, the knock-on effects could be massive.

In the short-term, expect the biggest names to pick up the stragglers and the smaller, independent companies we are so used to seeing slowly but surely disappearing from the competitive sports betting market. It’s a sad thing to see, but at the moment it looks like the direction the industry is going in.

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