The impact of COVID-19 on gambling review

It goes without saying that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on in-person gambling – in fact the Gambling Commission has stopped collecting statistics from licensed betting operators (LBOs) due to the tighter restrictions imposed in November 2020.

At the end of January 2021, the GC published its latest assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on gambling in the UK, covering the period from March to November and looking at both real-world and online gambling.

Some of the headline figures from the latest update include:

  • A month-on-month increase of 3% in active online gambling accounts
  • A month-on-month increase of 4% in total online bets placed
  • A 4% increase in online slots bets to over 5.2 billion
  • A 3% increase in gross gambling yield from online slots to £177 million
  • A record high number of active online slots accounts (2.8 million) during the pandemic

The average online slots session now lasts 22 minutes, an increase of one minute over the previous month, while 8% of sessions – 2.2 million in November – last over an hour.

Cause for concern?

Despite the increase in longer gambling sessions and across-the-board increases in active accounts and betting activity, the GC reports no immediate need for concern about an increase in problem gambling.

“The consumer research data continues to show that across the population as a whole, there is no evidence of a significant or sustained increase in gambling activity in the COVID-19 period,” it said.

Consumer data from the Gambling Commission shows about one in eight people (13%) have gambled more since the COVID-19 pandemic began, yet 27% have gambled less and the remaining 60% have gambled about the same.

For real-world venue operators, including pubs and clubs that provide gaming machines to patrons, this is a reassuring sign of a stable market demand waiting to return to bricks-and-mortar premises.

Get ready to reopen

The future roadmap is still not set in stone, and likely depends on the balance between COVID-19 vaccinations and new variants of Coronavirus over the course of 2021.

However, we would urge all hospitality operators, pubs, clubs and other venues to get ready to reopen, and welcome all enquiries about new gaming machines or delayed maintenance and upgrades to your existing fruit machines.

Remember too that other significant market trends – such as the move to polymer banknotes and 12-sided £1 coins – still need attention if your machines have not been updated to prevent the use of expired currency.

The shutdown has caused significant challenges across all sectors, but this is the time to take whatever actions are necessary to get back to business as soon as you’re given permission to open up.

Slot machine and gaming trends to watch out for in 2021

All indications are that the current Coronavirus vaccination efforts will allow 2021 to become the year of the grand reopening, and for hospitality operators it’s not a moment too soon.

Venue managers will be looking to attract as much business as possible – within any COVID-secure restrictions, of course – and the gaming machine sector is here to support that ambition.

Despite the lockdowns of the past 12 months, it doesn’t mean there are no new developments in slot machines and gaming in general, so what might this year bring?

Cashless coin-op machines

We’re likely to continue to move towards coin-op machines that don’t require coins, and slot machines with no slots, as cashless gaming machines become more commonplace.

The Coronavirus pandemic has made all kinds of cashless payments the first choice, as handling physical money represents an avoidable risk of transmission.

But it’s also a matter of convenience. In the States, tapping a prepaid card on a designated part of the machine is a familiar way to pay for arcade machines and fruit machines.

With the move towards cashless payments propelled even faster forward by COVID-19, this could be the year for UK fruit machines to follow suit.

Touchscreen gaming machines

The pandemic is not necessarily bad news for touchscreen gaming machines, which are more hygienic than you might imagine.

More and more pub entertainment machines are touchscreen, including quiz machines, pub jukeboxes and a growing number of fruit machines too.

Touchscreens are smooth and easy to clean, plus they mean there is often only a single point of physical contact with the machine – give the screen a quick wipe with an appropriate surface cleaner and it’s COVID-safe once again.

Quiz machines and digital jukeboxes are already mostly touchscreen, but with more video fruit machines appearing in pubs in recent years, 2021 might prove to be the pivot point when mechanical buttons become a thing of the past.

COVID-themed fruit machines

Finally, will 2021 be the year for COVID-themed fruit machines to hit the market, or is it still too soon?

Slot machine manufacturers are notoriously unafraid to come up with games based around the big news stories – and there’s no bigger story than Coronavirus.

This probably won’t happen while the virus is still a significant threat, but you can bet that once the first round of vaccinations is complete, Coronavirus fruit machines will hit the market.

It’s all part of the British sense of humour and finding the bright side on the darkest days – will you be installing a COVID-19 slot machine in the months to come?

For more information about our own fruit machines, call Manco Automatics today on  0161 870 7777.

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