The year 2020 was a complicated year for many sectors of the business world. However, for online gaming, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that it has been a banner year for all involved.

Naturally, this is not unexpected news. Considering the circumstances, one could easily see this coming. 

The pandemic and the resulting lockdown measures all over the globe meant a lot of people were relying on the internet for absolutely everything. It should come as no surprise that this would include things like gaming.

It wasn't all great though. In fact, the global revenue for retail gambling dropped by 39% and the gambling industry as a whole actually hit the same low levels as those seen in 2010. 

However, online gambling revenues rose from US$58.9 billion in 2019 to US$66.7 billion in 2020. It's largely believed that the pandemic was key to online gambling's 2020 success story.

The USA

The USA has been historically slow to regulate and get on board with online gaming. There is more than one reason behind this. However, it is important to consider that the USA is, in many ways, 50 different countries operating under the same umbrella. 

While it's feasible for a federal initiative to do things such as regulate online gambling, in practice, the individual states are left to their own devices on such matters.

States organize their own gambling

This is why, for example, Pennsylvania is right now experiencing such a strong upward trend in online gaming revenue compared to the other states that make up the union. They are only the fourth state to actually step forward and adopt a policy and regulations on online gaming.

New Jersey, another state that has proactively opened up the online gaming market, is still the biggest single market for online gaming in the US, however. Their annual gross is up to $225 million USD per year at this point and shows no signs of slowing down.

All of this untapped potential is making online casino providers the world over take notice, especially regarding the online sports betting market, which was legalised by the Supreme Court in 2018. 

The US market is, currently, very small compared to what it could be as more states open to online gaming. 

That being said, there's already been a 20% increase in online gambling in the US, despite the fact it's not yet widely available. It has been predicted that 2021 will be even stronger for the US, leading to a predicted revenue approaching $10 billion in a decade.

The UK

As most people reading this probably already know, the UK is the home of the famous UKGC or UK Gambling Commission. This is the most important and prestigious licencing authority for online gaming in the world at this point.

The UKGC strikes back

The UKGC has been showing its teeth a bit more in the past year than previously. Most notably, back in April 2020, they banned UK customers from using any type of credit card for online gaming. 

They are also poised to slap even more restrictions on gambling sites, as they have been promising to review a lot of regulations initially decided on back in 2005. It was a different world then.

One possible new regulation coming down would be hard limits on maximum bets on online slots and similar games, which were particularly popular during lockdowns. 

Another possibility is that the UKGC will require casinos to do an affordability check with players in order to unlock higher maximums.

A great year nonetheless

All of this goes to show that, despite all the above and despite the UKGC claiming they have handed out more penalties than ever before in the year 2020, business is still booming. 

The UK's gross revenues from the gambling industry came in at £14.2 billion in 2019, roughly 40% of which was attributed to remote or online gambling. 

With the pandemic in effect, the initial 2020 quarter revenues did drop for the UK, primarily due to sports being cancelled. However, the rest of the year saw the online sector maintain growth and even improve across mobile gambling.

As it stands, the UK's is a mature and stable industry, and it is likely to stay strong for some time, with little to no surprise movements, unlike some other countries we will mention below.

Italy

Italy is having an especially good year for online gaming, perhaps even more so than the rest of its European counterparts. 

In particular, while gross revenues for sports betting dropped due to the cancellation of many sports events, April 2020 saw a doubling of Gross Gaming Revenue from online poker tournaments for example. 

By December, revenue from online gambling hit a jaw-dropping €359 million for just that one month. 

This represented a €100 million increase from November, which was already a record-setter, as was October. December in fact all but doubled July's previous record of €194.2 million in gross revenue, which in turn was an unthinkably high number for Italy's gaming industry even a year ago.

Spain

Spain was another country where the numbers were borderline unbelievable for the online gaming industry.

The Spanish gaming industry saw a solid 17.7% growth rate for 2020, but what was interesting were the sharp changes in verticals. 

People in Spain, like Italy, collectively decided to leave sports betting for other types of betting online, specifically mostly poker and online games of chance. Roulette, specifically with live dealers, broke all the records here. Projected revenue for the near future sits at somewhere around the €50 million per month mark.

Spain's market, however, may not have the bright future of the other countries listed here. The main reason the smart money isn't as long in Spain as other countries for online gaming is that new rules have gone into effect regarding online marketing, and these are expected to have a bit of a chilling effect on revenue for this industry in times to come.

Final thoughts

While it's possible that the online gambling industry may see something of a downward adjustment as people start to go out more in a post-vaccine world, numbers are likely to remain high. 

This is because spending more and more time on the internet was already a trend even before the pandemic. The pandemic, in many ways, just sped up the inevitable in this aspect. 

Each of these countries also suffered from extremely high COVID case numbers and long lockdowns, which could have contributed to this lasting growth within the gambling industry.