Manitoba gambling changed in a big way in the 2020-21 fiscal year.
According to Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries (MBLL) end-of-year report, changes include a $51 million spike in online gaming revenues.
Meanwhile, traditional in-person options such as casinos and video lottery terminals (VLT) went the other way.
Both platforms suffered mightily, with the former’s revenue decreasing by more than 85% ($195 million) compared to last year.
However, VLTs took the biggest hit with a drop of nearly $217 million in revenue.
COVID-19 and casinos
Unsurprisingly, much of the province’s shift in gambling habits stems from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gamblers couldn’t get to the slots, even if they tried.
Consider Manitoban casinos closed for over nine months (282 days) between March 2020 and March 2021.
And although they were able to reopen on July 17 (Winnipeg casinos opened on July 28), it was only at 50% capacity.
Patrons also had to be fully vaccinated to participate.
But that isn’t to say the MBLL didn’t try to salvage the situation.
In the summertime, the Crown corporation announced it would introduce “stadium gaming.”
The idea was to use an interactive video for gameplay to make it easier to maintain social distancing once restrictions eased.
Meanwhile, VLTs networks were closed for 195 days during the year.
They came back into effect on July 17 but in bars and restaurants.
Manitoba’s move to online gambling
With the writing on the wall, the MBLL was proactive in its online gaming presence this past year.
In early September, Manitoba officially launched single-event sports betting on the first day of legalized sports betting in Canada.
MBLL launched single bets on PlayNow.com – the province’s only legal gambling platform.
The MBLL report also stated cannabis and liquor sales remained strong during the pandemic year.