Data shows the impact of Covid-19 lockdown-easing on online gambling behaviour in July 2020

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The FINANCIAL — The Gambling Commission has published further data showing how the easing of the Covid-19 lockdown has impacted gambling behaviour in Great Britain. The data reflects March, April, May, June and July and covers both online and in person gambling. The latest data includes consumer research and data from Licensed Betting Operators (LBOs) found on Britain’s high streets.

July saw a slight month on month decline in the amount spent by consumers on online gambling (including online slots). The amount spent remained higher than pre-lockdown levels[1] driven by the pent-up demand for sports betting on popular events.

Additionally, with high street betting shops now reopening, the Commission will monitor to understand levels of engagement with retail gambling products as more people begin to return to town and city centres.

The new online data also reveals that:

The number of online slots sessions lasting longer than an hour decreased by 2% in the month to July, and;
Between June and July, the number of customer interactions undertaken by operators rose by 2%.
Gambling behaviours continue to evolve as the country continues to move out of full lockdown into the autumn months but still provide justification for the Commission’s updated guidance to operators.

This included guidance to online operators in May – setting out the need for improved affordability checks, the prevention of reverse withdrawals and restrictions on bonus offers. This was reinforced for land-based premises in June when they were allowed to reopen.

The Commission continues to track Covid-19 related risk by:

Assessing the impact of the strengthened guidance issued to operators
Collecting and publishing the data being gathered
Supporting the industry as land-based premises begin to open
Where evidence identifies additional risks faced by consumers, taking further action to protect consumers.

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Behaviour change during and post lockdown

We are continuing to publish consumer research collected to see to understand potential risks to consumers as a result of the Covid-19 period. This month we are publishing consumer research data collected via the Populus online omnibus[1]. We used this survey to explore how people’s gambling behaviour (rather than participation) has changed as a result of the lockdown period, including shifts to online gambling and whether changes have been maintained post-lockdown.

The Populus survey asked respondents about their gambling behaviour in three distinct periods:

Pre-lockdown (January to mid-March)
During lockdown (mid-March to mid-June)
Post-lockdown (mid-June up to the date the survey took place
The gambling activities included in the survey were: scratchcards (in person), fruit/slot machines or machines in bookmakers (in person), bingo (in person or online), pre-event betting (in person or online), in-play betting (in person or online), casino games (in person or online) and instant win games or slots (online).

The Populus data allows us to measure the impact of the Covid-19 period on both those who gambled before lockdown and those who did not, including channel and product shifts and whether these have been maintained. The diagram below summarises behaviour change during and post lockdown and provides population level percentages for where behaviour has changed and an increase in risk of harms.

Looking back at the impact of lockdown, the survey shows that at a population level, relatively few people changed their gambling participation during lockdown, although there were elements of shifting to online products in the absence of land-based opportunities, with some of these new behaviours being maintained post-lockdown.
2.7% of the population did not gamble before lockdown but then went on to gamble online during lockdown. Between lockdown easing and when fieldwork took place, the majority of this cohort returned to non-gambler status, but smaller proportions retained online gambling behaviours or started in-person gambling.

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2.0% of the population gambled in-person before lockdown and shifted channel to online during lockdown, with more than half this number continuing to gamble online (sometimes alongside a return to in-person participation) post-lockdown.

5.1% of the population gambled before lockdown and shifted one or more products online (e.g. from football betting to online slots) during lockdown, however only a minority of this group (0.8% of the total population) maintained the new products since lockdown.
Changes in spend

The Populus data shows that those who gambled pre-lockdown were more likely to decrease their spend during lockdown than increase it, with 13% reporting an increase in spend and 24% a reduction. Since lockdown has eased, the proportion changing their spend has reduced, with almost three quarters (73%) reporting no change compared to before.

Reasons for increased spend during lockdown centred around wanting to alleviate boredom and having more free time while those decreasing their spend cited mainly fewer opportunities to gamble and financial reasons.

The Populus survey also provides an indication of how and why consumer spend may be impacted over the next 3 months. Respondents were more likely to anticipate a decrease in their gambling spend (30%) than an increase (4%) over this period.

How much you expect to spend on gambling in the next 3 months

The main reasons for expecting spend to decrease were financial insecurity and needing to save money.

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