Covid-19 has not exactly been fun, we get this. It has been a hard slog for most people, and many industries have suffered greatly because of it. Interestingly – and perhaps not that surprisingly – it has had a very different effect on the gambling industry… or at least, it seems that way at first glance.
Last July, 2021, the infamous Las Vegas Strip, where all the big casinos are to be found in their neon glory, contributed to a total statewide gambling revenue of nearly US$1.4 billion in one month. But what does this have to do with Covid-19, if anything?
It might seem obvious to point out that land-based casinos saw an increase in revenue in 2021 from 2020 – a disaster of a year for brick-and-mortar casinos worldwide. Gambling may not have slowed down, but most of it moved online during 2020 due to lockdowns. And revenue for 2020 was lower than 2019. However, even compared against pre-pandemic levels, the growth in revenue across all gambling and sports betting sectors in Nevada skyrocketed in 2021.
This still doesn’t answer how, or whether, Covid-19 may have contributed to this massive growth. It certainly explains what happened during 2020, but the levels of revenue growth over 2019 are noteworthy enough to raise questions. There are three elements to this resurgence in revenue that support the idea that Covid-19 had an impact.
1 – People need to have some fun
It sounds ridiculously simple, but seeing as the whole world experienced this, we all know what it felt like to be stuck behind closed doors, unable to enjoy any of the activities that make life worthwhile, other than what we might find online. And while the online world of gambling, concerts and events is something to behold, us humans also need to get out from time to time.
Nevada, and specifically Las Vegas, has been putting in a staggering amount of effort into recovering from the devastating losses of 2020. Casinos are attracting big-name stars such as Bruno Mars, to perform. They are hosting all manner of non-gambling events and entertainment, which draws more people to the casino. Presented with such a visual feast and the excitement of the Strip, even visitors who aren’t regular gamblers are much more likely to give the casino a spin, especially when visiting the notorious Vegas.
2 – Access to money
The struggles faced by many industries globally meant that many people were put out of work. In the USA, the government has been providing stimulus checks to help alleviate these issues. The stimulus checks are designed to help all economies in the US recover, by ensuring people have not only income for survival, but also for a bit of leisure. While the pandemic goes on, and access to many entertainment options are limited, using your leisure budget for a good time in Vegas is appealing.
3 – Dampened travel
International travel has been tricky to say the least. Many countries have yet to open their borders to visitors at all, while others insist on proof of vaccination before allowing travel. Much as in point 1, however, people need to travel, enjoy themselves, get out and have some fun, for their mental wellness. With options being so severely limited, finding the right place can be a challenge. Las Vegas, however, has gone to extreme efforts to make this destination even more attractive than usual, bringing people who may otherwise never have visited.
So yes, in some ways, Covid-19 certainly contributed to the massive spike in revenue in Nevada in July 2021, but its effects have also done considerable damage to the industry at large. Land-based casinos globally have suffered, even while online casinos continue to grow, creating a shift in the balance of how people engage with gambling, sports betting and lotteries worldwide.
We will be watching with great interest to see how this balance changes over the next few years, as we move into a post-pandemic world.