Cyprus-licensed online sports betting operators already had a solid leg up on their land-based counterparts before the government suspended retail operations due to COVID-19.
Figures released last month by the National Betting Authority (NBA) of the Republic of Cyprus show locally licensed bookmakers handled wagers totaling €215.5m in the final quarter of 2019, a rise of 21% over the final three months of 2018. Total betting revenue rose 15% year-on-year to just under €27m.
The six so-called Class A (retail) bookies accounted for just under €86.4m (40%) of Q4’s total handle, essentially flat year-on-year. Retail betting revenue rose 2% to €16.8m, representing around 62% of total Q4 revenue.
The nine Class B (online) bookmakers saw their handle shoot up 39% year-on-year to nearly €129.2m, while revenue shot up 45% to €10.15m. The phenomenon of handling significantly more wagers but reaping less revenue than retail bookies is largely attributable to the online bookies’ need to offer bonuses and other incentives, as retail bookies don’t have to compete with internationally licensed competitors.
Speaking of, the NBA blocked an additional 771 unauthorized gambling domains in Q4, slightly less than the 968 domains it added in Q3 2019. The NBA’s naughty list, which was launched in 2015, now contains some 11,363 entries.
For 2019 as a whole, retail betting handle totaled €309m, down 7.4% from 2018’s full-year result, while retail revenue slipped 3% to €58.6m. Online handle shot up nearly one-third to €457.7m while revenue rose a comparatively modest 5% to €30.2m.
While the number of retail licensees remained unchanged in Q4, the number of points of sale fell 2% year-on-year to 553, while the number of staff employed in those shops fell 3% to 1,316.
Those retail numbers will likely continue to fall after the NBA announced the “mandatory suspension of ALL land-based betting premises” [emphasis in the original] for a four-week period starting March 16 to curb further spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The Republic of Cyprus government also announced certain means of helping bookmakers cope with the shutdown, including suspension of fee payments, a reduction in VAT and some help in meeting payroll.
Online-only bookmakers would ordinarily be thrilled to have the market all to themselves if it weren’t for the pesky fact that there’s currently no live sports events on which to wager, with the possible exception of Belarus football, and those players will likely all be dead soon, and then where will we be?