Searches for online casinos have hit their highest peak since 2005, according to data from Google trends.
While the majority of the world has struggled over the course of the COVID-19 outbreak, online casinos have seen significant growth.
Worldwide searches for the term ‘online casinos’ hit their peak between April 19 and 25 this year, at a time when around a third of the world’s population was under some form of lockdown.
It hit the same peak again between May 10 and 16, and is only predicted to climb higher as the world continues to stay home and the majority of casinos remain closed.
Laos showed the most amount of interest in the search term globally, with New Zealand and Portugal following closely behind.
Here’s a breakdown of online casino interest in the COVID-19 period, and the games that stood out the most.
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Though only 32 of America’s 50 states had entered lockdown by March 31, residents were already on the search for online casinos in anticipation. The United States, which has recorded more coronavirus cases than anywhere else in the world, saw searches for online casinos peak between May 10 and 16.
The term started to show signs of growth way back in early March, when it was becoming clear the coronavirus would hit the world harder than expected. The country nearly reached its five-year peak for the term in early 2017, but hasn’t seen interest as large as May 2020 since 2004.
Online poker was the country’s game of choice with interest rising 3-fold in mid-March.
Optimove recorded a 43% increase in the use of online poker sites in the US since lockdown took effect, including a huge 255% increase in new poker players.
Searches for online slots were second-best among US gamblers, also increasing 3-fold, with online blackjack, craps, and roulette falling behind.
Pennsylvania recorded the highest number of searches for online poker across the country, which is probably linked to its rollout of legalized online gambling in late 2019. Nevada followed closely behind, evidently grieving the loss of Las Vegas casinos which shut their doors mid-March – the first time since President John F. Kennedy’s funeral.
While the UK’s interest in online casinos tends to remain pretty high year-round, it saw a large surge between March 23 and April 4 when lockdown was first introduced. The peak is the UK’s highest since June 2018.
Searches didn’t hit an all-time high until May 10, however, seemingly linked to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech to slowly ease lockdown. Though many saw the announcement as a step in the right direction, Johnson revealed schools would not reopen until at least June 1, while eateries, bars, and salons would not open their doors while July 1 at the earliest.
It’s important to note that the UK actually saw the biggest surge worldwide for online slots – searches for the term increased 1000% when lockdown began, around four times the amount of growth in the US.
Bingo saw the second largest jump, which was expected as the UK is known for its love of the game. Online poker fell behind this time, coming in as the UK’s third favourite form of online gambling over the coronavirus period. It appears the Brits just aren’t as interested in it as those in the US! Online roulette, craps, and blackjack maintained usual figures for the Q1 period.
Online casino searches dropped drastically over the Easter bank holiday weekend when the UK had an unusual amount of good weather, but soon jumped back up the following week.
UK residents expressed particular interest in gambling with friends, with the term ‘online poker with friends’ soaring in popularity in late March. While the UK’s biggest betting companies ceased advertising on the TV and radio in late April, it appears the change didn’t affect interest in igaming.
Industry-wide UK scheme GamStop, which allows residents to ban themselves from betting, reported a 15% increase in former gamblers asking to end their self-exclusion since lockdown measures were introduced.
Canada recorded a large rise in online gambling interest almost immediately after the country’s lockdown began on March 18. On that date Premier Doug Ford ordered a wide range of closures, forcing restaurants, bars, libraries, schools and theatres to close.
The move clearly sent residents looking elsewhere for entertainment. The first significant spike in searches for online casinos happened between March 1 and March 22, which was recorded by Google as the biggest jump in the last five years.
Canada’s data looks pretty similar to that of the USA- searches reached their highest point since March 2018 in mid-May, which is expected to continue as Canada remains largely locked down. The search term ‘top online casinos in Canada’, which normally records regular peaks and troughs, grew significantly between March 21 and March 29, up 190% over the last 30 days.
Similar to most, Canada saw particular growth in searches for online poker and slots, although online bingo also increased popularity, too.
As of May 19, Australia had recorded 100 coronavirus deaths and 552 active cases, while 6,417 people had recovered. Most of those cases occurred between March 21 and April 3, and lockdown restrictions began to lift on April 27 after the infection rate fell below 0.5.
The country’s quick response to the COVID-19 outbreak didn’t stop its population from spending more time online, however. Weekly data from economic analysts AlphaBeta and credit bureau Illion recorded a 67% increase in online gambling transactions in the week ending March 29 compared to a ‘normal’ week.
Searches for the term ‘online casinos’ increased rapidly between March 21 and April 3, around the time the country hit its coronavirus peak. The increase in searches was the highest since September 2017, when the Interactive Gambling Amendment went into effect in Australia.
While it is now illegal to operate a casino site from inside the country, residents are able to search and play via foreign operators with little pushback from authorities.
Online slots, commonly referred to as pokies, are legal for local players to access and therefore saw a significant increase in demand. Online pokies saw its largest search term peak since 2004, while online poker recorded its largest since 2011. Australia seems to hold America’s love for poker and the UK’s passion for slots, while searches for roulette, bingo and blackjack fell behind.
New Zealand has been applauded worldwide for its ability to almost eliminate its cases of the coronavirus over the last three months. By the time Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had announced a 14-day travel quarantine period, searches for online casinos had already increased by 45%.
The country recorded a peak in searches between March 22 and 28, after Ardern announced one of the world’s strictest lockdowns on March 23. Interest in the search term hit its five-year peak in mid-April.
It was, however, online slots that stole the show in New Zealand. Searches for online pokies surged a huge 5-fold, while bingo, poker, blackjack, and online casinos saw interest increase on a much smaller scale- nowhere near the boom recorded in the US.
The Bottom Line
It’s clear why online casinos have seen rapid growth over the last few weeks. During a period where many of the world’s land-based resorts have closed their doors, online casinos have been out there offering free plays and low minimum buy-ins.
In fact, operators such as 888 have been so successful that their stocks have risen. Seasoned players have been given the chance to access challenging games for higher stakes, while casual gamblers have been spending their time placing low wagers and increasing their skill set.
The last few months have also made clear the differences between countries when it comes to online gambling. Though all listed above saw a boost in searches for casinos, it’s clear that online poker is king in the US and Canada, while the UK, Australia and New Zealand much prefer to try their luck at online slots, or pokies. The UK saw the most interest in online bingo.
The popularity of online casinos is likely to continue throughout 2020, too, while the world slowly gets back on its feet. Though some land based casinos may be close to reopening, it’s likely they’ll do so at low capacity and with a whole range of new safety measures in place that may make online gambling just that little bit more appealing.