Data showing impact of Covid-19 on gambling behaviour in September 2020

The Gambling Commission has published further data showing how the easing of Covid-19 lockdown measures has impacted online and Licensed Betting Operator (LBO) gambling behaviour.

The data reflects the period between March and September 2020, inclusive, and the Commission states that it shows:

  • The online market grew, with a month-on-month increase of 3% in gross gambling yield (GGY), and a 7% increase in active accounts. The main driver for this was real event betting – which saw 15% growth in GGY and a 14% increase in active accounts – and is likely to have been boosted by the return of Premier League football
  • The average session length for online slots remained steady at 21 minutes. There was a 3% decrease in the number of online slots sessions lasting longer than an hour
  • Licensed betting operators also experienced month on month growth across some metrics, with increases of 7% in bets/spins placed and 11% in GGY (to £187m) likely to be impacted by the re-opening of all shops and the return of the Premier League
  • At the same time, the Commission is releasing further consumer research which shows the broader impact of Covid-19 on people and provides further insights into why some people have increased or decreased their gambling activity since the first lockdown

In terms of ‘headlines’ arising from the data, the Commission states as follows in its market update:

Online betting

The online gambling data, collected from the largest online operators, covers the months March through to September. 

Between August and September GGY increased 3% (to £420m), driven predominantly by an increase in real event betting as result of the return of the Premier League.

The number of bets decreased by 4% from August, while the number of active accounts increased by 7%.

Online real event betting

The impact from a lack of tier-one sporting events was clearly visible in August with GGY decreasing by 21% from July. Its return in September increased real event GGY by 15% from August to nearly £190m.

Real event betting saw increases in both the number of bets (5%) and the number of actives (14%).

This would indicate the reliance of real event betting on top-tier football, with the Premier League returning in September.

Online slots

Slots GGY decreased by 4% to £157m and is at the lowest in any of the data we’ve collected regarding the covid pandemic, including the March 2019 baseline, with the number of bets also decreasing (-4%) and the number of active accounts (6%) increasing since August.

The loss per active for slots has decreased by 10% to £61 in September, but still remains by far the leading vertical in this metric.

Consumer product engagement

The figure for those engaged in more than one activity is down from 41% in April to 32% in September.

Safer gambling indicators

The number of online slots sessions lasting longer than an hour decreased by 3% in the month to August (down to 1,969,995). The average session length remains steady at 21 minutes with around 8% of all sessions lasting in excess of 1 hour.

Between August and September, the number of customer interactions undertaken rose by 3% (to 995,058) although within that number the majority were automated in nature.

Operator data indicates that during September, the proportion of those interactions that were direct contact from staff remains steady at 4%.

Offline Betting

The Commission has collected data from the largest Licenced betting operators (LBOs) for the months of March (pre-lockdown) and June through to September. It is worth noting that LBOs closed on 23 March and were given permission to re-open[1] from 15 June.

Absolute values are not directly comparable between these periods for several reasons including:

  • Retail not in operation for a full month in March and June
  • Phased openings; times and premises
  • Local restrictions
  • Impact of restrictions on other retail gambling sectors

GGY reported for the month of September increased 11% since August to £187m, likely to be impacted by the return of the Premier League. The number of total bets and spins also increased by 7%.

Over the Counter (OTC)

Activity over the counter increased in September with both the number of bets (3%) and GGY (2%) increasing since last month. The distribution of activity among products shifted slightly with OTC accounting for 39% of all GGY, a slight decrease since last month.

Self-Service Betting Terminals (SSBT)

SSBTs saw the biggest increases out of all the products. The number of bets placed increased by 24% from August and GGY increased by 69% during the same period.

Machines sessions

Machines GGY increased by 8% month-on-month to £86.6m, which is also 6% higher than July, the first full month of operation since Lockdown, although re-openings of premises took place in a staggered approach.

Spend per session remained relatively steady at £10.29, a decrease of 10p since August.

The number of spins per session decreased by 2% (to 122) between August and September.

Safer Gambling Indicators

3% of total machines sessions lasted more than an hour in September, this has remained steady since July. With operating restrictions in place in retail premises, this could be driven by availability of machines or consumer desire to not lose their spot.

This is early data which we are unable to triangulate with customer numbers but does indicate the potential for an increase in intensity of play and the need for operators to remain vigilant in line with the Commission’s guidance [LINK] and reminders set out to operators just before outlets were able to re-open.

As retail reflects new customer behaviour we could be seeing a mix of both displacement of activity from OTC to machines with consumers possibly wanting to limit contact with other individuals, and the return of only the most engaged individuals.

The following links will enable you to access the Commission’s latest:

each of which you can also download below.

We have previously reported here on data released by the Commission last month.