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Is Asian gambling and iGaming industry ready for the COVID19 pandemic?

We still know very little about the virus itself and how it spreads. Vaccines are in the works, but chances are that it’s going to be at least 6 months before any dedicated treatment medicine is ready for mass production.

The emergence of COVID19, or Coronavirus, has caught the world by surprise. With an estimated R0 of 3.5 and an asymptomatic incubation period of 14 days…

…COVID19 took less than a month to reach every corner of the world.

So far, the world’s response has been slow at best.

We still know very little about the virus itself and how it spreads. Vaccines are in the works, but chances are that it’s going to be at least 6 months before any dedicated treatment medicine is ready for mass production.

In other words, we’re not out of the woods yet. With that said, many are wondering how the new pandemic is going to affect the entertainment industry in Asia, namely gambling and iGaming sectors. So far the outlook isn’t too pretty.

Gambling in Asia under quarantine
The world is 2 months into the COVID19 outbreak. China, being the origin of the pandemic, was the first hot spot for the new virus. This country was also the first to enact strict quarantines, first on a local level, then on a county level.

Some argued that the Chinese response to the crisis was too strong. However, it is now becoming apparent that strict quarantine procedures enacted in China are exactly what prevented a much worse epidemic.

While China was dealing with the new virus, the surrounding countries didn’t simply sit around doing nothing. South Korea took advanced measures to curb the spread of the virus within its territory, resulting in one of the lowest mortality rates of all affected countries. Similar responses were recorded in Singapore and Taiwan.

What all of these countries have in common are self-isolation and restricted movement of the population. These life-saving measures have curbed the spread of the virus, but also put a strain on local land-based casinos.

Southeast Asia has invested a lot of money into casinos and resorts in recent years to address the rising influx of Chinese tourists. Right now, all of those new businesses have ground to a halt. With more and more countries resorting to travel bans, especially for those coming from affected regions, the entire tourism and travel industries are at risk of sustaining massive losses.

Effects on global iGaming and gambling industries
COVID19 pandemic has revealed just how unprepared most countries are for pandemic level events of this type. In addition to that, it has also revealed how connected the gambling markets of the world are.

The standstill in the tourism industry has left its mark on casinos all over the world. With no Chinese tourists around, establishments as far as Las Vegas are feeling the heat.

iGaming in the time of coronavirus
Self-isolation, quarantines and restricted movement have led many to stay at home and wait for the pandemic to blow over. This has led to a surge of people working from home, but also looking for entertainment from home. Those unable to visit their favorite land-based casinos have found refuge in online casinos.

Although there is an obvious rise in traffic across most tier-one online casino operators, actual numbers and statistics are yet to come. A question that imposes itself is whether this shift from land-based to online is going to be enough to offset the lost revenue for operators who run both of these types of casinos?

Much like every other retail business, casinos employ a massive amount of people whose jobs are currently at risk.

Current projections and long term preparedness
At the time of writing this report, most countries’ CDC equivalents are looking at the COVID19 pandemic as a short-term problem. This is growing to become a popular sentiment, especially seeing how China has announced that the epidemic has peaked and that the number of newly infected in China is dropping by the hour.

However, as a counter to these reports, we have a number of academics and experts who are warning the world that COVID19 is nowhere near to being done.

Prof. Dr. Christian Drosten, professor at Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin – one of the leading medical university hospitals in Germany – is one of those experts.

Dr. Drosten has been credited with discovering the original SARS virus in 2003, while his work has contributed to developing the first reliable diagnostic test for the SARS-CoV-2, also known as COVID19, in January of this year.

Drosten runs a medical podcast where he shared his predictions that summer and high temperatures will only reduce the R0 factor by 0.5. R0 is a metric that tells us how many people can a single carrier infect on average.

Furthermore, Dr. Drosten has estimated that the virus outbreak will peak as late as July or August.

Although WHO doesn’t currently share these views with Dr. Drosten, we still need to be prepared for the possibility that the pandemic won’t be over anytime soon.

Closing the casinos for a month or two might be doable, but that is a band-aid solution to a possibly much larger issue.

The light at the end of the tunnel
Although the situation looks fairly grim at the moment, there is some good news.

Namely, several prestigious institutions and private labs are working around the clock to synthesize a vaccine. Some are ready for the testing phase and will have the results ready in a few months.

On the other hand, the world has had a chance to see both sides of the spectrum when it comes to responding to the new virus. South Korea’s mortality rate of 0.7% proves that ‘tracing, testing and treating’ potential infected is key to getting a grip on this disease.

However, we’re seeing a completely opposite situation in Italy where the mortality rate is 7% and whose healthcare system has defaulted to triage due to lack of resources.

In other words, the world is adapting and fast. This metamorphosis also includes the behavior of people. Beating this virus starts with taking individual responsibilities and protective measures. This may just be enough to flatten the curve of the epidemic and bring the numbers of infected down to a level that most healthcare systems of the world can manage.

How all of this will affect the iGaming and gambling industries long term is anyone’s guess. Right now, things aren’t looking too good. With that said, things can go whichever direction as the situation is currently highly dynamic.