Continued consistency in data showing impact of COVID-19 on gambling behaviour

The Gambling Commission has previously (in May 2020 – when it introduced additional customer interaction guidance for UK licensed remote gambling operators – and June 2020) published data showing the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on gambling behaviour.

It has today (6 July 2020) published updated data, this time reflecting the two months of full lockdown in April and May 2020, which it describes as “consistent with the first two sets” in terms of a decrease in overall gambling participation and some engaged players spending more time and money gambling on certain products). However, this time around, it has highlighted:

  • an increase in real-event betting and sports betting, coinciding with the return, during May, of top-flight football through the German Bundesliga,
  • an increase by 17% in the overall average spend per active customer (when comparing the data for May 2020 with that for the preceding month) and
  • a slight decrease in the number of sessions over an hour.

Announcing publication of this updated data, the Commission has stated:

The data reflects the two months of full lockdown in April and May and was collected from the largest online operators and the YouGov Covid-19 tracker. It builds on data published by the Commission on 12 May and further data published by the Commission on 12 June – with the Commission issuing updated guidance to operators in May which included the need for improved affordability checks, the prevention of reverse withdrawals and restrictions on bonus offers. 

The latest data is consistent with the first two sets and also highlights an increase in real-event betting and sports betting, partly due to the return, in May, of top-flight football through the German Bundesliga.

Overall participation[1] has decreased but some engaged players are spending more time and money gambling on certain products. Overall average spend per active customer[4] increased by 17% in May, compared to April.

A key component of the guidance issued to operators in May was the instruction to prevent reverse withdrawal options from June onwards[2]. The data gathered throughout May showed significant usage of operator reverse withdrawal functions, suggesting that the Commission’s updated guidance was both appropriate and timely, and will ensure consumers are better protected from harm during the lockdown period.

Having assessed the implications, the Commission will now continue to track and assess risk by:

  • assessing the impact of the strengthened guidance issued to operators
  • collecting and publishing the data being gathered
  • working with the industry as land-based premises continue to open
  • where evidence identifies additional risks faced by consumers, taking further action to protect consumers.

The data was taken from YouGov’s Covid-19 tracker[3], which covers a representative sample of circa 2,000 adults in Great Britain each week, and from submissions of the biggest operators, covering approximately 80% of the entire online gambling market.[4]

The full report on Covid-19-related data is available on the Gambling Commission’s website.

Notes to editors

  1. Participation rate taken from operator data on active player accounts, i.e. players who have placed one or more bet or spin during the month.
  2. Most online operators offer consumers the facility to reverse a request to withdraw funds in their gambling account. Consumers can use this facility to change their decision to end gambling, and either extend their session without taking a break or spend more than they originally intended. The Commission, supported by academic research, lived experience and expert advice, already considers the use of reverse withdrawals as a flag for potential gambling harms.
  3. YouGov’s Covid-19 tracker. Based on responses from 15,046 adults in Great Britain, aged 18+, taken from seven waves of fieldwork conducted on the following dates: 16-17 April, 23-24 April, 30 April-1 May, 6-7 May, 20-21 May, 3-4 June, 17-18 June
  4. These figures may contain some duplication of customer numbers where it is not possible to identify unique customers.

You can download below the Commission’s full updated report entitled “Covid-19 and its impact on gambling – what we know so far [Updated July 2020]”.