The Coronavirus and national lockdowns shut down various national sports leagues and international tournaments, such as the English Premier League as well as the Euro 2020, which only took place in 2021. At the onset of the crisis, this revelation had caused gambling profits in the gambling and betting industry to plummet by 20% (as measured by gross gambling yield, showcased on Find Betting Sites) with their main products (i.e. big, popular games in football and basketball) being cancelled or postponed. So how did bookmakers and bettors deal with this void? Research shows how mobile bettors and phone users have changed their habits.
Russian table tennis – who could have known?
A big, yet definitely unforeseen arrival to the traditional bookmakers’ bets and wage options across the US and UK was Russian table tennis. Sports gamblers, at the very beginning of the pandemic, were eagerly looking for something to put their money on and just bet and wager away. Low-tech Russian table tennis came to the rescue, as players from oversees started swarming the foreign leagues with their bets. It was reported that gamblers liked this option of Russian table tennis since they believed anything could happen.
These kinds of low-stakes games, played in smaller rooms without a large audience and an interesting league structure attracted gamblers from all over the world, so much so that Russian table tennis had stayed on the American sports books for nearly a whole year. The attraction to something new and random was exactly that – the excitement provided by something spontaneous was exactly what punters were looking for, and they go it. These bets were provided on operators such as DraftKings, which is a new and dominant betting service provider in the online betting scene.
Different sportsbook providers actually reported that, even when traditional and domestic leagues had returned to the American sports book, the momentum and excitement surrounding Russian table tennis continued to stay on their website. For example, on the online sportsbook called PointsBet, when national American sports leagues came back and there were more ‘normal’/’traditional’ options for players to bet on, Russian table tennis still account for about a whole quarter of betting on the site. However, today, table tennis stands fifth inline for the most popular sport to be betted on across different sportsbooks.
Mobile Fantasy Sports
Another big winner from the loss of live sports was its natural alternative, and that is fantasy sports betting. Online sportsbooks such as DraftKings have offered fantasy betting since around 2015, however it had only gathered serious steam during this pandemic. Their platform has been designed with mobile users in mind, and this shows when we look at how they have fared.
Clearly, with the arrival and prominence of Russian table tennis, American and British sports bettors wanted something new, and something more interactive and engaging. Well, fantasy sports are just that. Fantasy sports and Esports betting drew in a large number of gamblers because esports tournaments did not see their schedules change much from their original fixtures; video games can simply be played online and fully broadcasted.
The audience for this kind of esports and fantasy sports betting however was much younger and contained a large number of new customers and individuals experimenting through mobile devices, as opposed to repeat customers and those transferring from traditional sports and land-based betting venues to esports.
The extent to which the void left behind by a closure of live sports was filled by things like Russian table tennis and fantasy sports is unquestionable. However, we are unsure as to how much popularity these alternatives will keep given the ‘return to normal’ following an easing of lockdown restrictions as well as the large-scale return of national sports leagues as well as international sports tournaments. Currently, Find Betting Sites reported that in the UK, there was an increase of 1.5 million active users across online betting sites, but we are yet to see how many are here to stay.