If the emergency caused by the coronavirus epidemic has completely blocked retail gaming, online gaming – albeit at half strenght – continues, and in the absence of sports events in betting has seen poker and casino games to grow, consolidating the offer of some games and paving the way for new developments.
But there was no “outbreak” of bets in the virtual segment, as feared (or erroneously reported) by some. Indeed, to be honest, the data coming from the industry and made available during the Digital Panel of GiocoNews.it entitled: “The impact of Covid-19 on online gaming“. In particular, “On a basket of 30 concessionaires, bets record a minus 75%, while all other games grow by 2-3% compared to the previous period. The weighted average is that the overall expenditure is less than 15%. There are few players, the active ones have fallen by 12%, because they mainly bet on football and have stopped betting with the stop of the championships. But they didn’t go looking for other games” Marco Castaldo, CEO of Microgame, explains speaking at the debate.
“We are working much more than before in this emergency lockdown situation, but we are witnessing a drop in turnover because, contrary to what many think, the stop of bets has not been mitigated by the growth of the other games. And players play in a different way, with more attention, to last longer by spending less”.
If specific segments, such as those of virtual casinos, are growing – in March it has grown by 29% for StarCasino, as explained by Andrea Rossi, Managing Director Southern Europe & Latam – Betsson Group – it remains clear that the performance of these verticals will only be a support and won’t fill the hole of betting.
Instead, the problem of Italy is that of the illegality risk. As Barbara Beltrami, Country Manager Kindred Group, highlights in the panel: “What is found in Italy is also found in the other markets. Emphasizing that the physique is fixed, generating more than 90 percent of the gaming volumes, there wasn’t a transfer of this revenue on the online, at least on the legal one. We don’t know what is happening on the illegal online market, given that today with the current advertising ban, if a player is looking for an online offer it is easier to find unlicensed operators. The data we are talking about only concern the legal market, while we aren’t able to evaluate what is going on in the illegal one, but the authorized operators are working even harder to always protect the players, many have launched messages to users about responsible gaming, there is a great attention to ensure that there is sustainability, to inform the players, to help them not to exceed, to use control tools”.
For this reason, the operators’ call to the government is to open a discussion table on the ban on advertising which risks becoming even more dangerous in times of coronavirus.
Trevor De Giorgio, chief legal officer of Greentube, a leading operator in the supply of games says: “At the moment, we have not seen this transfer of players from land-based to digital market. Our reality is divided into two parts: B2B and B2C. On B2B, we see that our customers are more active and have a greater number of spins, but if the players spend more time on their device, we don’t see the increase in expenditure, there is no loss of control. In fact, we see players who adapt and want this level of entertainment, including when it concerns poker.” So, “the online industry is not immune to the situation created by Covid-19, we have also been affected by it. For example, in Italy you have to work from home since March, and the same thing happens here in Malta, for six weeks.”
As for future scenarios, De Giorgio says: “We have to prepare. When sports events reopen, many will be behind closed doors. There will be no real-time updates and this exposes to a greater number of frauds. B2C operators will have to be prepared for this reality.” And as for the illegal gaming, without an Italian license, “these websites are a reality, many have our games and many other suppliers, but they are not really ours, and this has a negative effect on our reputation as suppliers. The player doesn’t see the difference between a game of ours or one that has the same name but which is produced in Russia, but when somebody plays, feels that math is different. We are seeing how to minimize and deal with these effects”.
Arcangelo Lonoce, Europe Business Development Manager of Habanero Systems, explains: “It is difficult to assess the impact of the crisis on our market presence in Italy, we have been there for two years and we are still in an expansion phase. It is true that the impact is strong but the period under analysis is still too short to provide estimates.
The last month and a half we have noticed a decrease in the game played per spin, we are seeing a more rational approach, a trend that we have seen starting from March and strengthening also in April. From the point of view of the numbers on the market, we have not seen a growth in gambling”.
“In comparison with other similar markets with a less dynamic presence in Italy, in March and in April there were no new departures with new customers, we saw a decrease, most of our customers there are bookmakers and retail, and we have seen a decrease also in the number of players.
In this first phase, in which we are trying to get an idea of our business on the European and Italian markets we certainly haven’t seen anything to be happy about,” Lonoce says again. “If we look starting from the various facts highlighted, when we see that there is no crossover between retail and online, among the various verticals such as crossbooks and casinos, we see players playing casino games as hobby, indeed the outlook for the future is a problem.
I say that from the point of view of a B2B supplier that works only on casino games and online, our perspective is less advantaged than others that we are appreciating today, but we have no alternative to what we offer. From the operational management point of view, being our company small and scattered all over the world, we have not been affected, but for the company’s growth strategy, we suffered the cancellation of the possibility of confronting, exhibiting, traveling” .