UKGC’s additional customer interaction guidance remains in force despite end of UK lockdown

The Gambling Commission has today (14 August 2020) published further data showing how the easing of Covid-19 lockdown measures has impacted online gambling behaviour.

Predictably, despite the end of the complete UK lockdown which directly led to publication on 12 May 2020 by the Commission of additional formal customer interaction guidance for remote operators during the COVID-19 outbreak (including the need for affordability checks, prevention of reverse withdrawals and restrictions on bonus offers) – as reported by us here – the Commission believes maintenance of all aspects of that additional guidance to remain justified.

It states as follows in today’s website announcement entitled “Data shows the impact of Covid-19 easing on online gambling behaviour in June 2020”:

The Gambling Commission has published further data showing how the easing of Covid-19 lockdown measures has impacted online gambling behaviour.

The data reflects March plus three months of full lockdown in April, May and June. It was collected from the largest online operators and reflects online gambling only.

As the country moves out of full lockdown, gambling behaviours have changed but still provide justification for the Commission’s updated guidance to operators – which included the need for improved affordability checks, the prevention of reverse withdrawals and restrictions on bonus offers.

The latest online data – which covered the period where lockdown restrictions began to ease – shows that the gambling market has entered a new phase which presents potentially changing risks from gambling harm.

Online real event betting

Data provided by operators shows a Gross Gambling Yield (GGY) increase of 115% for online real event betting between May and June (rising to £217.5m), with GGY higher during June than at ‘average’ pre-lockdown levels.

The data indicates the release of pent-up demand, particularly for football-related betting and should be seen in the context of the lack of availability or reluctance of some consumers to bet in LBOs.

A number of player-friendly attributes in June included the high frequency of fixtures following the return of top flight football, some live free-to-air television coverage, and favourable timings in terms of matches being spread out during the day and evening.

Online slots

Despite a 1% increase in the number of online slots players since May, the same period saw a 5% decrease in the total number of slots spins (bets), with a corresponding 10% decline in loss per active player.

Loss per player figures are still significantly higher for slots than for any other online gambling activity, with an average monthly loss of £68 for slots versus £54 for real event betting and £37 for casino during June.

Consumer product engagement

A potential marker of harm is the number of gambling activities or products undertaken by a consumer.

The number of online gambling products played by individual consumers continues to decrease slightly as the Covid-19 crisis evolves from its peak earlier in the year, although players are still more engaged than they were in March 2019 – the figure for those engaged in more than one activity is down from 41% in April to 35% in June.

Safer gambling indicators

In light of the challenges and changes brought about by the Covid-19 crisis, we have been clear that we expect operators to identify and interact with consumers where necessary.

Since we issued additional guidance to operators in May, the number of online slots sessions lasting longer than an hour decreased by 5% in the month to June (from 2,085,023 to 1,987,121). Average session length has also decreased by 1m in this time.

Between May and June, the number of customer interactions undertaken rose by 12% (from 760,48 to 849,428), although within that number the majority were automated in nature.

Operator data indicates that during June, 6% of those interactions reported were direct contact from staff.  We will continue to collect and report this data going forward.

You can download below the Commission’s full report on its latest Covid-19-related data.