Gambling revenues: virtual alternatives are the solution – Study

A fresh-new research paper about the impact of the pandemic in Macau argues that it is important that gambling operators “understand that tourism may not easily recover to pre-COVID-19 times, and thus, must find ways to navigate the prohibitive travel climate if they wish to survive” possibly via technological innovations.

The authors of a paper titled The economic impact of a global pandemic on the tourism economy: the case of COVID-19 and Macao’s destination- and gambling-dependent economy state gaming operators should “transform themselves into less destination-dependent entities post COVID-19” while the gambling industry will need to take “proactive steps in order to navigate in and recover from crises” such as the pandemic.”

Weng Marc Lim (Swinburne University of Technology, Malaysia) and Wai-Ming To (School of Business, Macao Polytechnic Institute) suggest some examples of these “proactive steps”, all connected with technology, online and virtual gaming.

“Gambling operators in destination-dependent gambling hubs should consider leveraging on the technology advances brought by the Industrial Revolution 4.0, such as virtual reality, to deliver an immersive online gambling experience for virtual tourists,” is the first suggestion.

“Moreover, the use of technology for online gambling can coincide with responsible gambling, as virtual reality has been effectively used to curb gambling addiction and cure pathological gambling,” according to Lim and To.

“More recently, virtual alternatives for travel have shown promise, with tourists reporting feelings of freedom, nostalgia, and connection, each of which offers potential wellness benefits,” reads the paper published this month on Current Issues in Tourism scientific magazine.

These “pragmatic suggestions, to help gambling hubs that are destination-dependent to navigate in and recover from crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic” are the last part of the paper.

Both authors took advantage of the fact that full-year economic data is available, stating that this “is indicative of an opportune time to compare and contrast predicted and actual economic impact.” In this regard, wrote Lim and To “this study delineates the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the gambling industry using Macao, the world’s largest destination dependent gambling hub, as a case.”

Using a series of quantitative on longitudinal data, the findings are expected: on the one hand, the revenue of the Macau gambling industry is significantly dependent on tourist arrivals, and, one the other, the industry is evidenced “to experience an unprecedented decline in revenue as a result of plummeting tourist arrivals.” 

The findings also indicate that “Macau is a gambling-dependent economy as the decline in gambling revenue coincides with the decline in economic indicators such as GDP, median salary, and unemployment rate.” 

W.M. To is a Professor of Management in the School of Business at Macao Polytechnic Institute. He received his PhD from Imperial College London and he serves as an expert of the Chinese Ministry of Science. He is one of the most prolific academic researchers based in Macau.

Meawnhile, Professor Lim Weng Marc, Head of School, School of Business, Swinburne University of Technology, Kuching, Malaysia, has also connections with the same university in Australia.

(Weng Marc Lim & Wai-Ming To, 2021. The economic impact of a global pandemic on the tourism economy: the case of COVID-19 and Macao’s destination- and gambling-dependent economy. Current Issues in Tourism, DOI: 10.1080/13683500.2021.1910218)