Online gaming group 888 said revenues had fallen 20 percent since the reopening of retail and leisure venues in its core market, the UK — proving that lockdowns are good for business.
Despite the downturn, the company still booked a strong Q2, buoyed by resurgent sports betting and the UEFA Euro 2020 soccer championships, which kicked off June 11.
Customer revenue rose 11 percent, year on year, to $247 million in the three months to June 30. That’s up from $204 million in the same period last year, according to a trading update this week.
Six Months Locked Down
The UK was forced into a strict lockdown last December. The fast-spreading Alpha variant, which emerged in southeast England, was beginning to take hold of the country and threatened to overwhelm the healthcare system. Some of the worst-affected regions were under lockdown for considerably longer.
As cases dwindled, non-essential retail, including bookmakers, and outdoor hospitality venues like pubs and restaurants were permitted to open on April 12.
On May 17, indoor hospitality reopened, along with indoor entertainment venues like cinemas, theaters, and bingo halls, with social distancing measures in place.
Politicians and anti-gambling campaigners expressed concern this extensive lockdown would create a perfect storm for an escalation in problem gambling. The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) reported the highest online slot yield in UK history for March, the last month of full lockdown.
At the same time, the regulator warned operators to “avoid any temptation to exploit the current situation for marketing purposes and be very cautious when seeking to cross-sell products.”
Operators should also “take particular care when on-boarding new customers and making decisions over affordability checks which reflect the environment we are in,” the UKGC said.
The 888 figures demonstrate that at least some of those lockdown gamblers have emerged, blinking in the sunlight, to resume their pre-pandemic behavioral patterns.
Despite an extraordinarily successful UK vaccination program, the hyper-infectious Delta variant is now fully established in the country, spreading rapidly among the unvaccinated and single-jabbed.
Delta derailed the final phase of the government’s plan to remove coronavirus restrictions completely on June 21, but only by a month. On July 19, all legal limits on social contact will be removed and the final closed sectors of the economy will reopen.
That’s based on the vaccine’s high level of efficiency in reducing hospitalization and death from the virus.
888 told shareholders it “remains mindful” that a summer of no coronavirus restrictions will equate to “greater than normal seasonality” pressurizing its business, as will an anticipated shake-up of regulatory controls in the UK.
There are fears, though, the Delta variant will hurt the global recovery. While economic growth has been rapid this year, there are signs the bounceback may be levelling off.
Delta has quickly become the dominant strain of Covid-19 in the US, accounting for more than 50 percent of all new cases. Health officials are concerned the hyper-infectious variant poses a serious risk to the unvaccinated.