How Did The Second Lockdown Affect Gambling Behaviour
The United Kingdom Gambling Commission has produced more data, showing the extent to which the government’s tightening of Covid-19 restrictions have impacted the gambling sector. It looks at the period between Mach and October of 2020, covering both online and in-person gambling by investigating data provided by Licensed Betting Operators that can be found up and down Britain’s high streets.
Perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, the data shows that the world of online betting grew month-on-month, showing a 29% growth in Gross Gambling Yield. There was also a growth of 7% in active accounts, with real event betting growing by 53% GGY. Even though both the number of bets and the amount of active bettors were up, the main increase seems to have come from operator margins.
Gross Gambling Yield Has Increased
The Gambling Commission’s data appears to show an increase in Gross Gambling Yield for betting companies, with gambling behaviours evolving alongside the varying restrictions that have been imposed on people around the United Kingdom. The month-on-month increase of the online market has grown to the tune of 29% of GGY, which was at least partially powered by the 7% increase in active account users.
Real event betting was a big part of the reason for the increase, with a 53% rise in the associated GGY. The number of bets being placed increased by 12%, yet it was the margins put in place by bookmakers that made the biggest difference. The nature of real-event betting is such that it’s always likely to be volatile, such is the nature of sporting events and the influence that they hold over people placing wagers.
Why The Increase?
The UKGC said that they were expecting an increase in real world sporting bets during October for the simple reason that the month contained five Saturdays, with Saturdays being the days with the largest number of real world events that people can bet on. On top of that, the likes of the Premier League returning to action will have seen an increase in the number of bets that people will have been placing.
It’s certainly interesting that Licensed Betting Operators working on the high street reported an increase in month-on-month growth on some metrics, given the general reluctance of people to go into shops and other spaces during the pandemic. Yet the number of bets and spins being placed increased by 1% for a 9% rise in GGY, lifting it up to £204 million. The Gambling Commission believes this is also due to the number of sports taking place.
Slot Sessions Increased
Something that the UKGC will doubtless be wanting to keep an eye on is the fact that slot sessions that lasted for longer than an hour increased by 12%. More than two million such sessions took place in October. Though the increase was at the same rate as standard sessions, the Gambling Commission will be aware of how slot use is often linked to problem gambling by anti-gambling campaigners.
Even though there was a marked increase in the number of sessions that lasted over an hour, the average length of slot sessions remained 21 minutes. About 8% of all slot sessions lasted for more than an hour, which is what the UKGC would expect to see. The organisation did write to operators in May suggesting that they needed to improve checks in order to limit the possibility of problem gambling developing.
Operators Expected To Follow Guidance
The Gambling Commission remains determined to limit the number of people that suffer from gambling related harm, so they have issued a reminded to operators that they should follow guidance. The UKGC wrote to companies in May, issuing online operators with guidance. This included the need to improve affordability checks on bettors, as well as preventing reverse withdrawals and putting restrictions in place on bonus offers.
Land-based operators had the same guidance reinforced to them in June, with the Commission now determined to assess the impact that the strengthen guidance has had on operators. That dat will be published, with the UKGC keen to assist land-based operators where possible. If there is additional risk identified then further action will be taken to protect customers.
Is It A Sign Of Gambling Problems?
Earlier in the year we wrote a piece about the change in gambling behaviours that have come about as a result of lockdown. At the time, only about 0.2% of people who had gambled had done so for the first time, compared to 2% of people who said that they had given up gambling during the same period. That is likely to be due to the fact that not many events were taking place at the time, with actual gambling participation being stable.
Whether the UKGC’s data now shows that there is an increase in gambling because people have something of a problem is a debatable topic. Whilst huge sections of society are struggling financially, there are also vast swathes of the nation that are coping perfectly ok with their finances thanks to the inability to do things that they’d often do. Whether it be go on holiday or simply do something like go out for dinner, people are spending less money.
This added time that people have available to them, as well as the increase in disposable income, means that people are able to spend more money and time gambling than they were before. This doesn’t necessarily point to people having a gambling problem, instead merely suggesting that the industry is benefiting from people being unable to do many of the activities that they will have enjoyed doing before the pandemic.
The fact that sports were taking place during the second lockdown, when they were during the first one, is also a reason why punters are more inclined to place bets; it always helps when there’s something to bet on. The combination of time, disposable income and live events to bet on will always help people be able to get more involved in gambling, but that doesn’t necessarily suggest that they have a problem with it as an activity.