Like many other sectors, the online gambling industry also took a major financial hit in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Due to many professional sports events coming to a halt, the online sports betting industry got hit the most.
The biggest summer sports extravaganzas like the Olympics, Euro 2020, etc., were postponed, leaving punters with almost nothing to wager money on, causing a huge drop in the sportsbooks’ revenues worldwide.
However, the impact wasn’t the same across all online gambling verticals. In fact, the lack of entertainment options and increased amount of time spent at home caused a significant spike in business across these other verticals, especially during the time when there were strict social distancing protocols in place.
Online poker was one sector of the iGaming industry that benefited immensely from these unexpected developments.
Increased player activity
A majority of online gambling operators that offered both online poker and sportsbook services focused their energies on online poker as there were limited betting options available.
This proved to be a highly effective and sustainable strategy for them. It is pretty clear that online poker received a big push during the pandemic, bringing a multitude of new players as well as old ones back to online poker platforms.
These websites saw people making considerable deposits into their online poker accounts, looking to test their metal on the virtual felt.
Going by the statistics revealed by well-known payment facilitators, they witnessed a sharp increase in the online poker payments with the lockdown sanctions getting scaled up.
Some of them reported 7-day averages of consumers who made online poker deposits increasing by as much as 50% during March 2020, which remained the same throughout the end of May.
Even though the numbers decreased starting in June 2020, which can be attributed to decreased gambling activity during the summer months in general, the figures were far better compared to what they were in the pre-lockdown time.
However, many sports events have resumed regular action during autumn (after being heavily impacted by the coronavirus and the resulting lockdown). Numerous casinos based in North America and Europe are gradually reopening as well.
So, one thing everybody has been wondering with various physical poker events coming back is if the resurgence we’ve seen in online poker will continue its course?
The long-term perspective
If looked at closely, online poker’s future is very much tied up with how the fight against Covid-19 pans out going forward. A lot will also depend upon people’s attitude with regards to when they would like to come back to the times before the lockdown.
If people continue to be apprehensive about socializing because of Covid-19, this might have a long-term positive impact on various digital entertainment options, including online poker.
In that case, reputed poker websites like Global Poker (detailed Global Poker review here) and others will continue growing in the times to come.
Even though land-based casinos have reopened and resumed operations with various social distancing protocols, it would be up to the poker players to decide if they will still feel comfortable sitting at a table with strangers, exchanging chips and cards with each other.
Going by the research data of payment facilitators, consumers have been very reluctant to use cash during the pandemic times. In fact, a good percentage of them expressed apprehension about using cash even moving forward.
These people would be reducing their overall cash use in the future owing to health concerns. And even though casinos can easily provide these players with alternatives, helping them go completely cashless, it won't be possible for them to do away with cards and chips.
In fact, comprehensively converting the physical experience into a digital format will likely prove a rather difficult task.
On the other hand, despite the fact this consumer shift from the physical to digital format is mainly because of the lockdown and Covid-19, it has only accelerated the already existing trend driven by evolving technologies.
The continuing roll-out of augmented reality, virtual reality, 5G, and other technologies will allow online operators to provide a significantly improved poker experience to the online players.
Apart from health concerns, all these steps will also contribute to the growth of online poker in the future.
Regardless of whether there is a global or regional worsening of the pandemic or the entire world returns to a complete lockdown again, online poker operators are expected to stay focused on capitalizing on the push received from the pandemic.
It is very clear how online poker has managed to attract a great multitude of new players in 2020. The continued focus on building upon and sustaining that momentum will further boost the growth as the number of online poker hands played increases every day.
Mobile gaming as another important factor
The technological advancements over the past decade have completely transformed how poker is being played today in different parts of the world.
Earlier, people used PCs and consoles to enjoy gaming. Today, cheap and easy access to mobile devices has completely revolutionized the online gambling industry.
A large percentage of poker players has shifted from conventional platforms to mobile ones.
In addition, the robust configuration, affordability, and portability of smartphones have contributed significantly to the constantly growing base of online poker players.
Push by the millennials
Another significant factor that is expected to contribute to online poker's growth even after the lockdown is the millennial population of the world.
A large majority of the global population is under 45 years of age, and this demographic is the biggest contributor to the online poker industry.
Millennials are particularly passionate about playing poker on their mobile devices, which serves as an excellent opportunity for the operators to go all out to capture their interest and attract them using all kinds of marketing strategies.
On the whole, with the online poker industry constantly racking its brains and doing everything possible to introduce novel concepts for the players, it will likely continue its upward trend even after the lockdown.
Many of these operators are introducing interesting interactive formats and features to improve user engagement, making poker as exciting as in the off-line format (if not more).
All these efforts and initiatives will help keep the industry moving forward, catering to experienced players and those with small bankrolls just starting their poker adventure alike.