Brick-and-mortar casinos are big business, and the recent legalization of sports betting across over a dozen US states – and the potential for dozens more – has brought the wider scope of gambling into focus legislatively.
States that formerly eschewed traditional gambling houses are revisiting the ideas with gusto, and the entire industry is growing. However, while sports betting is largely being allowed both in-person and online, online casino games and poker have largely been dismissed even in the current liberalized climate.
But that could finally be changing.
While the catalyst for embracing legitimate casinos over the Internet should be individual rights and freedom of choice and similar quaint little notions, reality is a bit more cynical:
The outbreak of the coronavirus is steering this discussion.
Though the new, deadly flu isn’t a big threat in the US just yet, it’s hit Asia hard. Just this week, the world’s biggest retail casino district – Macau – saw all its venues shuttered indefinitely, at a local economic loss of hundreds of millions of dollars per week.
Given China’s ground zero status and the fact that its online casino ban promotes high volume person-to-person contact in the gambling marketplace, critics and proponents have taken control of the narrative to push the idea that online gambling is safer, healthier, and fundamentally better for any large society.
Indeed, as a response to the coronavirus’ spread, Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators – or POGOs – have seen a reported 90% increase in traffic over the last month.
POGOs serve Chinese residents with the Internet-based real money gambling solutions Beijing disallows domestically, and the spike in participation is proof positive that millions of users view online gaming as the better option for now.
Of course, this narrative isn’t just limited to China and other ASEAN countries.
Las Vegas, Nevada – while not quite the financial heavy hitter that Macau is in the gambling world – actually sees more tourism traffic than the Chinese city, and fears are growing stateside that Sin City venues could become a viral hotspot for the coronavirus.
While Chinese travel bans are currently being enforced, there is no guarantee that the popular Nevada gaming center won’t be affected by the strain. Like Macau (and China in toto), NV does not have online casino gaming or slots available to residents and visitors.
In fact, the coronavirus is already affecting certain aspects of the Las Vegas casino market, with mainstay entertainment brand Cirque du Soleil pulling its performers due to fear of infection.
Whether or not the virus du jour will become a serious global catastrophe remains to be seen, though similarly hyped ailments – like SARS and swine flu – eventually subsided without causing mass destruction.
Still, it shouldn’t take a literal existential threat to promote common sense policies like the legalization of online casino gaming.
In fact, such gaming isn’t even actually barred by US gambling laws, it is merely heavily restricted by the government when it comes to operators doing business inside the country.
If you’re an avid gambler – or even a beginner who’s currently scared off from the casino circuit due to the coronavirus or other group-based considerations – you can gamble safely and legally online right now.