Online Gambling in 2021: Trends, Gamechangers and Potential Pitfalls, by Brean Wilkinson, Rightlander
Say it quietly, but online gambling is in a pretty good place at the start of 2021. For good or for bad, online gambling gained a larger user base in 2020, with many attributing the growth in the industry on the changes to our behaviour brought about by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The lockdowns that occurred (and are still occurring) the world over really aided the online gambling industry and many firms have reported record profits during last year. But how sustainable is that growth? Especially with mass vaccination programs in full swing, many of us will return to the lifestyles we once enjoyed.
One trend that we are going to see in 2021 is an increase in regulation. In almost every regulated gambling territory, authorities will be looking closely at the effects the lockdowns have had on player behaviour. No doubt a lot of focus will be on whether problem gambling had a higher propensity to occur in such an environment. Patterns of player activity have changed considerably during 2020, with more players getting online then ever before.
Netherlands and Germany regulation
Despite the authorities in both the Netherlands and Germany dragging their feet when it comes to online gambling regulation, 2021 looks like it will be the year they will separately introduce licensing enforcement. Both countries have sat idly by and watched many of their European counterparts introduce online gambling regulation. There appears to be no more dithering for authorities in both of these major gambling markets, with declarations from both countries that regulation is on its way and will be here before the end of 2021. We wait with bated breath…
A change of guard in the US
The US has just sworn in its 46th President, with Joe Biden taking over from Donald J. Trump. The Democrat leader may present even more hope for the online gambling market, which has grown exponentially in recent years. Over half of all US states have either approved some form of online gambling or have legislation pending.
There are complications for legislators to consider such as; the effect on the existing land-based gambling industries and the protections to Native Indian reserves. But the appetite for online gambling in the US has continued to grow and could really explode in 2021.
One of the biggest hurdles is the licensing process, with applications required for every State an Operator or Affiliate wants to do business in. It’s time consuming and costly and no one yet knows if it is really all worth it. Many are betting that it will be though and we expect to see some consolidation as firms jostle for position in this fast-changing gambling landscape.
Marketing and Google Updates
Marketers, such as Affiliates, may face a host of new challenges in 2021, brought about by changes to Google Search. If the Core Update, which was rolled out in December 2020, wasn’t painful enough, there is another big change on horizon when the Core Web Vitals update is introduced by Google in May. Many affiliates will likely struggle to cope with the pace of change and the demands being put on them. Couple this with the ever-increasing regulatory demands being placed on affiliates, we may see many of these marketers step away from this industry as they find it too difficult to stay relevant and make money.
Those affiliates that offer a unique product and have invested in their technology infrastructure will likely thrive. Emphasis appears to be heavily focused on the migration of web users to mobile and tablet devices. The user experience seems to be central in many of these updates from Google and other search engines.
Those affiliates that are fortunate enough to not rely on Google for traffic have other issues to deal with, especially tightening legislation around advertising on social media and display networks. This is largely being driven by regulation, but there are also other factors at play. The squeezing out of small to medium affiliates is likely to continue in 2021 for many of these reasons.
So as the online gambling industry continues to mature, we can expect greater regulation and tighter controls on advertising. But we will also see a vast array of new opportunities as playing habits change and new markets open up. 2021 is likely to be another significant growth year for the those that can work within the regulations imposed upon them.