COVID-19 has had a massive impact on all types of industries across the United States.
Among those to have been affected in a big way is the casino sector, with many bricks and mortar sites having struggled financially over the course of the past few months.
According to a tracker maintained by the American Gaming Association, more than 900 casinos have now been able to reopen their doors, with fewer than 100 still closed down.
At the start of the pandemic, every casino in America shut down, which meant people who wanted to play games such as slots, blackjack and roulette had to go online instead.
But online gambling legislation in the US is hard for players to get their head around, with the rules and regulations different from one town to the next as states can set their own laws.
Online gambling is on the rise regardless, so how is COVID-19 affecting legislation?
Progress remains slow despite casino closures
It might have seemed to make sense to relax online gambling rules and regulations when nearly a thousand bricks and mortar casinos in America had to close their doors due to the pandemic.
But this was not deemed to be a priority and, although online gambling is already legal in a number of states such as Nevada and New Jersey, no others have followed suit lately.
John Boxim from headlinecasinos.com, a leading site covering the online casino industry, says: “In general, legislation was already moving very slowly in most states, so COVID-19 definitely doesn’t help, but in the grand scheme of things it will just postpone everything for a bit.”
As Boxim points out, COVID-19 also makes it harder to make changes to online gambling rules with a lot of state legislatures having been delayed as a result of the pandemic as well.
The coming election may have been seen as a chance to put this issue to the public but again, online gambling has not been deemed to be a top priority at the current time, understandably.
However, there is one big reason why this could be short-sighted and that also relates to COVID-19. State budgets have been decimated as a result of the pandemic and legalizing online gambling is widely seen as a way to raise much-needed funds through taxation.
Is legalizing online gambling inevitable in America?
For many people, it does not seem to make sense that people can gamble in a bricks and mortar casino, but not in the comfort of their own home via the internet.
This is one of the reasons why it feels inevitable that online gambling will be legalized across America in the coming years, but some states have shown little appetite to do this.
In the south in particular, attitudes towards gambling remain quite negative and it is hard to see how this could change any time soon, but in places thought to be more liberal it seems likely that gambling through the internet will be a reality in the near future.
It is going to be increasingly hard for states to ignore the rapid expansion of online gambling in America. One study released a few weeks ago said the global online gambling market is likely to grow at 11.5 per cent each year until 2027.
Sports betting a route to legal online gambling
Legal online gambling in the US could depend on sports betting, which is increasingly popular.
It is only a couple of years since Delaware was the first state in America to move to legalize online sports betting. This was taking advantage of the historic ruling by the Supreme Court, which paved the way for sports betting through the internet to be legalized in the US.
At a federal level, Congress has also been looking into changes to sports betting legislation, so this is something else to keep a close eye on in the coming months and years.
With major sports now resuming – albeit under strict COVID-19 controls and restrictions – betting on sports is likely to be in more demand across America for the rest of 2020.
The return of the NFL in particular is one of the top betting events of the year, but many Americans are still unable to have a bet on the big game through the internet.
In the future, this might just be seen as a thing of the past, though COVID-19 has not helped to speed up the process of legalizing online gambling in the US.