Online gaming and other virtual activities may take the place of some of the more traditional rituals this Thanksgiving Day. Many Americans are expected to remain at home, given coronavirus-related health directives.
On past Thanksgivings, many people visited friends and relatives, traveled great distances, and went in person to cheer on their favorite football teams. They may have ended the day by going to brick and mortar stores to purchase low-price deals from retailers.
But while some of those traditions linger, many Americans will heed the warnings — from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — to remain at home. That means more time online.
Some plan to share part of Thanksgiving virtually with friends and relatives. Some plan to do a lot of their shopping online.
And the move to online interaction also means more time for online gaming this holiday.
With the new wave of COVID cases, we will again see the same sort of spike in online gambling over Thanksgiving and Christmas that we saw in the spring,” said Robert Jarvis, a professor at Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad College of Law, to Casino.org.
“And while some people will play online for the first time and decide that it’s not for them, most will become converts and find that they do not need to go to a casino or track to pursue their interest in betting,” Jarvis added.
He notes in a forthcoming gaming law textbook which he co-authors that many people tried online gaming “for the first time during the lockdown.” That shuttering of casinos took place starting in late winter, and typically lasted for several months.
“The migration to online gambling already was underway before COVID-19. But COVID-19 is speeding up the process by a good decade or so,” Jarvis said.
One study projects the global online gaming market will grow to $94.4 billion by 2024. Previously, the market — as of about 2017 — was estimated to be $45.8 billion, Malta-based Catena Media reported.
Looking ahead, Jarvis said that “betting venues … recognize that there will be no going back to the old normal, even after there is an effective vaccination, and investments in online gambling will thrive.
“Those that don’t will perish,” Jarvis predicts about venues. But land-based gaming properties will continue to have a key role in the evolving market.
There still will be times when people will want to go to a casino or track,” Jarvis said. “But they will do so for things that online gambling can’t give them: a sense of community, a night out on the town.”
The move to online gaming also comes as more people work remotely from home and opt for shopping online. “Our world is changing, and that includes how we will gamble in the future,” Jarvis said.
Still, James P. Whelan, director of the Institute for Gambling Education and Research at University of Memphis, told Casino.org that his study, undertaken a month after casinos shuttered because of the pandemic, shows it was unlikely brick and mortar casino shuttering led gamblers to opt for online options.
Among the caveats: those who already had online gaming accounts continued to use them. “Some increased their duration or frequency,” Whelan added.
He notes, too, that in some regions, legal online gaming currently is not accessible.
For those who like to wager on sports, one difference this year is there has been a decline in sports viewership tied to restrictions imposed because of the pandemic.
“As for the drop-off in sports viewing, I think that is a temporary phenomenon brought on by the crazy schedules [and] rules that leagues had to implement,” Robert Jarvis said. “I believe that sports viewing will bounce back, especially as legalized sports betting comes to more and more states.
“What may not bounce back is fans actually going to games, especially as the ability to stream games grows, which, combined with the ability to bet on games online, will make it unnecessary to go to games except when one wants those things that watching a game in your living room can’t give you.”
The Rev. Richard McGowan, a finance professor at Boston College who closely follows gambling trends, concurred that “online gambling is becoming more popular and will become more so with the legalization of sports gambling.”
“Over 80 percent of the online gambling revenue in Europe is sports gambling,” McGowan told Casino.org. “That will probably also be the case in the US as well.”