It is nearly impossible to find a silver lining for COVID-19 but if one thing has come out of the global pandemic, it is how we as humans learned from the world standing still. America’s exploding legal sports betting industry has been particularly hard-hit the last few months but has learned a few lessons themselves about how to stay relevant during the closure of all of their US retail locations and the pause of major sports globally. That lesson is that mobile betting is the future and the present of the rapidly expanding industry.
The American Gaming Association reported that 92% of all US casinos were shut down during the worst of the coronavirus crisis. That’s 910 land-based casinos that weren’t taking bets. But those providers fortunate enough to have a strong mobile presence drew people to online casinos that surged in popularity during quarantine and allowed bettors a chance to wager on the limited sports going on or on Futures bets from their favorite leagues.
Some see the impending opening of brick-and-mortar casinos being a problem for mobile wagering platforms but the trends pre-COVID show that mobile betting was in the midst of a gambling takeover with three of the four most successful wagering states taking in between 85% and 90% of their impressive monthly handles via mobile apps.
Not all mobile platforms are the same
It has become increasingly clear that not all mobile sports betting platforms are the same. States like Nevada make it mandatory for customers to sign up for a mobile betting app in-person while other more progressive states allow their customers to sign up remotely, from the comfort of their couch.
Obviously, in-person sign-up has been impossible the last few months unless you are William Hill. They allowed their customers to sign up in Nevada via drive-thru services which ran for one weekend in March. Nevada has some catching up to do with the biggest players in the mobile betting space – they reported just 49% of their handle from March coming from mobile apps – 35%-40% behind the most successful states in that regard.
Mobile betting 3-month roller coaster
The month of March saw a couple weeks of actual sports action and was supposed to mark the beginning of March Madness. During that month, there was an 18% increase in mobile sports betting downloads largely thanks to the anticipation of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Unfortunately, those bettors didn’t get much of a chance to use their apps as the sports world ground to a halt mid-month and March Madness was cancelled.
April was a different story. The country was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, sports were shuttered and there was little reason to think that any type of meaningful athletic action would return anytime soon. The result was a 12% drop in mobile sign-ups.
May looked like the month that sportsbooks had been patiently waiting for. Thomas Allen, a Morgan Stanley analyst is out with some eye-popping mobile registration numbers for the month that speak to the pent-up sports betting demand, the realization that the sporting world is about to return to normal and possibly the reluctance of people to enter a brick-and-mortar gambling facility. Mobile sportsbook app downloads for May increased a whopping 200% – great news for an industry that got hit exceptionally hard by COVID-19.
Colorado’s adoption of their own legal mobile sports betting platform and remote sign-up rules May 1 also helped boost the registration numbers.
Gearing up for a summer boom
Summer usually represents a sports betting slowdown as the NBA, NHL and of course the NFL are usually on hiatus. But not this year! The NBA and NHL will restart their seasons and play through the summer, baseball will hopefully be back to an incredible slate of games every day of the summer and the NFL is prime to start cranking as the dog days come to a close.
NASCAR and the UFC which have been saviors for sportsbooks in the US will be in full swing and most European soccer leagues will wind down their seasons during the summer. The PGA TOUR will also be busy.
It looks like the days of betting on table tennis and Korean baseball are over (unless that is your thing). Sports betting is back and online betting sites are making it easier than ever with their expanding and ever-improving online options.