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Jason Ader: Coronavirus could present a "really good opportunity" for the industry

The coronavirus outbreak could provide an opportunity to the gambling industry, rather than causing detrimental harm, according to an analyst.

Sportsbetting

Jason Ader, CEO of SpringOwl Asset Management, told Gambling Insider the outbreak could force land-based operators to move online if they haven’t already, giving the industry the chance to "vigorously" focus on problem gambling.

At the time of writing, there have been more than 116,000 reported cases of coronavirus, with more than 4,000 deaths. China is the worst-affected with nearly 81,000 cases, while in Europe Italy has passed the 9,000 mark with more than 450 deaths.

In the UK, as of Tuesday morning, 373 cases have been reported with six casualties.

Sports events have also been affected, with last weekend’s Serie A matches in Italy played behind closed doors, while it was announced on Monday all sport will be postponed in the country until 3 April.

Speaking to Gambling Insider before that news broke, Ader said online sports betting remained strong in Italy despite the lack of in-stadium fans, and in general online betting has continued to blossom online despite the virus spreading.

He added: "I think the coronavirus crisis could be an opportunity for the industry. I’ve always had the view gambling is not like alcohol and tobacco which is a controlled substance, and that it’s more of a leisure activity.

"But it’s a highly criticised activity because it can be overused by underage users or those with gambling problems. So I think it’s a perfect opportunity for the industry to think about making sure various regulatory bodies, specifically in the UK where operators have been highly criticised for their business practices, can work together to ensure during this period the abuses are under control.

"The outbreak is a really good opportunity for the industry to remain vigorously focused against underage gaming and problem gambling, and prove to the world it's socially responsible too.

"Maybe it opens up those who are either against or on the fence of online betting, who happen to have significant land-based operations, to consider it as a complimentary part of their gaming portfolio. It would be very powerful to be able to market to customers online in the event they can’t come to your land-based operations for travel or quarantine restrictions.

"I think online gambling is one of the best-performing industries at the moment. Other than the companies who are making anti-bacterial wipes or sanitising hand gels and facemasks, the online gambling companies are next."

With the ongoing outbreak, sporting events, including this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo, are at risk of postponements or cancelations, but Ader is hopeful the big events get the go ahead.

He said: "We hope the Olympics goes ahead on time but the bigger issue is the European Championships. The Euros is really big for betting; there is some betting that happens in the Olympics but it’s not as big as you would think.

"The real important event of the summer for operators is the Euros, so hopefully that takes place on time."

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