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Changes In Gambling Behaviour During Lockdown Comparing 2019 With 2020

graph arrows up and downSince the United Kingdom entered lockdown as a means of attempting to save lives, the manner in which people have engaged in their standard consumerism has changed dramatically. The betting industry has witnessed that more than most, whilst also being hit by the secondary issue of not having much sport for people to bet on.

The United Kingdom Gambling Commission has now had a look at the manner in which the betting industry has been affected by everything that’s been going on. The organisation believes that it has a responsibility to ‘protect consumers’, so the study has looked specifically at how the risk to bettors has changed. They’ve collected data from operators and consumers to do so.

calculatorThere’s no point in assessing the world of gambling in isolation. After all, the lack of much of the usual live sport that people like to bet on means that the betting industry could have suffered but no other industries might have done. Context, then, is key to understand how consumers feel and what they’re choosing to spend their money on at a difficult time.

Savanta reports that nearly a quarter of all people believe that their mental health has been adversely affected over the past couple of months. At the same time, as much as 39% of the population has seen its disposable income decreasing, resulting in a financial impact on people’s lives. So what does this mean for gamblers? According to YouGov, it means the following:

  • Regular bettors have spent 17% on ‘entertainment’ online, compared to 12% of all adults
  • 56% of gamblers have been watching TV compared to 43% of all adults
  • On-demand entertainment use has been at 50% for bettors and 39% for all adults

What Gambling Markets Been Impacted?

closed betting shopRetail gambling venues have been closed since the 20th of March, resulting in the cessation of 50% of the overall market when you exclude lotteries. Whilst lottery tickets have still been available in certain establishments, they have been hit by the lack of available of outlets as well as a decline in people going shopping in general.

The research that the UKGC has conducted included comparing the data from March and April 2019 with the same months in 2020. The key figure that stands out is that few new consumers appear to have been attracted to gambling websites this year. Over the months of March and April, just 0.2% of those interviewed said that they had gambled for the first time.

That figure is comparable with 2% of adults who had stopped gambling during the same period, meaning that there has been a bet loss of bettors so far. At the same time, there has been a 5% decrease in active player accounts, according to operators. That’s not overly surprising, considering the lack of real events for people to bet on.

Gambling Participation Has Remained Stable

stableThough the lack of live events has meant that betting companies have understandably taken a hit, the surprising thing is that the amount of active bettors has remained stable. YouGuv conducted regular surveys between the 16th of April and the 7th of May, discovering that the rolling four-week numbers for gambling participation remained pretty much the same.

The only major factors that have seen a drop-off are sports betting, understandably, and participation in National Lottery draws. At the same time, though, there has been an increase in people playing Instant Win games on the National Lottery website and app. Overall, there was an initial drop in Lottery sales before they recovered to just below a normal amount.

The main reason that gambling participation has remained somewhat stable is that people who were already gambling have been trying new products. That is highlighted by the rise from 26% of bettors engaging in online activity in April 2019 compared to 42% of people doing so in April 2020. The concern is that such a risk can also lead to a rise in problem gambling.

People Are Trying New Things

Game Type % Change From March 2019 to March 2020 %Change from March 2020 to April 2020
Poker 38% 70%
Virtual Betting 40% 37%
Other Gaming Including Casino 3% 25%
Slots 16% 15%

Around one-third of people spoken to by YouGov said that they have tried at least one new gambling activity over the four weeks prior. When looking at just people who were already gambling this figure increased to 54%. 18% of these people had tried virtual sports, such as virtual racing, with a similar figure having tried online bingo.

Interestingly, the largest increase has come in draw-based National Lottery games. As many as one in five people say they have tried the National Lottery draw for the first time. Operators have also shown that games that offer a faster play cycle have seen increases in active players, though admittedly some of them have been coming from a lower base of initial players.

Examples of this include betting on virtual events and poker, which have seen increases of 44% and 53% respectively. The YouGov research shows that 34% of the adults spoken to remembered seeing some sort of advert for bingo, slot or casino games over the previous months, perhaps explaining why those areas appear to have seen such an increase.

This is also perhaps the reason why the number of bets that are being placed is growing at a fast rate. Looking at the different areas that people bet on, you can see that there is a big change in the increase of bets between March 2020 and April 2020 when compared to March 2019 and March 2020. The table above shows how it looks.

The absolute growth of some of these areas might actually be quite small compared to the percentage increase of bets place, given that they might have started from a relatively low base. Even so, the increase in people taking part in online poker is a sizeable amount. The important thing is that 75% of recent gamblers say that they haven’t increased the amount of time or money the spend doing so.

What The UKGC Will Know Moving Forward

ukgcThe Gambling Commission has asked for a series of questions to be added to YouGov’s future polls, hoping that they will be able to learn more about how certain key metrics are changing. These questions include some on the way in which changes in gambling participation have changed for certain people, as well as those doing so for the first time.

The UKGC also wants to find out how many people are increasing their monetary spend and the amount of time spent on gambling activities, plus how aware they are of advertising and marketing for the different gambling types available. Though these aren’t official statistics, the UKGC feels that it will give them a solid evidence base moving forward.

Why Might The Changes Have Happened

betting on football onlineThough the research from the Gambling Commission is helpful in identifying the manner in which things have changed since the country went into lockdown, what it doesn’t do is explore the reasons why. Obviously the drop off in betting on live events is clear, given there simply haven’t been many live events for people to bet on since the end of March.

As for the increase in the types of things that people are betting on as well as the number of new bettors, it’s interesting to note that the largest increases have been in things that provide instant gratification. Though there has been an increase in National Lottery draw tickets sold, the biggest increase has come in Instant Wins game on the company’s website and app.

Likewise the largest increase in casino-style betting has come in poker, where people will feel that they can win a ‘quick buck’. This seems to be reflective of a society that wants to try to replace lost wages with quick fixes. This isn’t all that surprising, considering the number of people that will have been furloughed or lost out on work altogether during the current crisis.

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