The closure of entertainment establishments across the globe amid the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a surge in traffic to online casinos amongst other forms of online entertainment.

Nevada-based online operator WSOP has reported recent visitor numbers over 45 per cent higher than during its yearly peak during its live tournaments, which itself is two or three times higher than its background traffic number throughout the year, according to the company’s vice president of communications Seth Palasky.

The trend is also seen elsewhere, with the Italian Poker Stars website seeing around 5,000 players at the virtual tables during the shutdown, which is about double the level of regular traffic the site receives. And the pattern is similar elsewhere across Europe and around the globe.

Online casino operators have responded to the increased interest in their offerings by adding more events and tournaments, with record prize-money on the line. Leading card-room PokerStars said the prize pool of over $18m for the $215 buy-in Sunday Million tournament at the end of March was the biggest in the company’s history with nearly 61,000 players and 93,016 entries, and one of the biggest tournaments ever for any casino online.

As millions around the world are encouraged to “stay home and stay safe” amid the ongoing crisis, the record-breaking “Sunday Million” tournament attracted players from around the world. Germany was home to the most players entered into the tournament, but there were also thousands of players from various other European countries, South America, and Canada – but US players were barred from entry.

Whilst the US was an early leader on online poker in the 2000s, the US market today is only a fraction of those seen in other jurisdictions due to federal legislation prohibiting US residents entering international tournaments, and the game only legal in any form in in Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Nonetheless, these states have seen significant increases in player numbers in recent weeks as individuals isolating at home look for new forms of entertainment, and the prize prize pools have today often double what they were at the beginning of March. These US online operators are hoping that they will be able to convert their new players into long-time fans of the game, but it is unclear whether the increases in player numbers will be a temporary blip or the start of a new boom.

Global interest in online poker had been on a gradual but noticeable decline for the last five years, but the coronavirus pandemic has generated a new peak in visitor numbers for a wide array of online casino operators alongside other online activities such as video streaming and gaming.

After years of gradually improving the streaming quality of the films and television shows available on its platform, last month Netflix took the unprecedented step of reducing the majority of streams down to standard definition in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, India, and a number of other territories in order to reduce the impact on each country’s internet infrastructure as more people than ever look for entertainment online. Netflix vice president Ken Florence commented on the change: “If you are particularly tuned into video quality you may notice a very slight decrease in quality within each resolution…But you will still get the video quality you paid for.”

Meanwhile, online gaming platform Steam has also seen record number of gamers over the last month, with player numbers up by around 20 per cent to more than 23 million around the world.

As millions of people remain stuck at home around the world in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, online entertainment of all forms is booming with online poker perhaps the most surprising winner so far.


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