The UK’s Gambling Commission has recently released its research data showing how the easing of COVID-19 lockdown measures has affected online gambling behaviour. The research data focuses only on online gambling and is aggregated from large online operators operating throughout March plus the three-month full lockdown period (April, May, and June.).
Since the easement of full lockdown has resumed, the regulating body has seen a change in gambling behaviours. Despite this change, it is still using some of the data to justify its updated operator guidelines, which include affordability checks, prevention of reverse withdrawals, and restrictions on bonus offers, in order to protect UK players from gambling harm.
In this latest study, which covers the period where lockdown restrictions have eased up, the commission has forecast that the gambling market has entered a new phase, which represents potentially changing risks from gambling harm. It has gathered data from multiple leading operators and has outlined these as the following key points, online real event betting, online slots, consumer product engagement, and safer gambling indicators.
In terms of online real event betting, the data collected shows that operators show a gross gambling yield of 115% for real event betting between May and June (rising to £217.5m), with June’s yields being the higher compared to pre-lockdown numbers. The commission has attributed this rise to the release of pent-up demand for football-related betting while also expressing that this number should be seen in the context of the lack of availability or reluctance of consumers to wager in brick and mortar betting shops. The commission has also attributed this rise to many player-friendly factors such as the return of top-flight football, live free-to-air tv coverage, and favourable match schedules spread throughout the week.
As for online slots, the commission has accounted for a 1% increase in online slot players since May. Despite this, there is a 5% decrease in the total bets in the same time period, corresponding to a 10% loss per player. Its data also shows that losses per player numbers are significantly higher for slots compared to any other online gambling activities, £68 for slots versus £54 for real event betting, and £37 for casino during June.
The commission also looked into data pertaining to consumer product engagement. Here, it is observing potential gambling harm markers such as the gambling activities or products used by a consumer. Its study has found that the number of online gambling products used by consumers continues to decrease slightly as the COVID-19 pandemic moves off its peak point. Though players are more engaged in online gambling compared to last year, March 2019, the commission’s figure shows that consumers involved in more than one activity have dropped from 41% in April to 35% in June.
Finally, the commission has also looked into data regarding safer gambling indicators. It has expressed the need for operators to identify and interact with consumers when necessary despite the challenges and changes brought about the pandemic. Since its guidance issuance last May, its June data reports that the number of online slot sessions lasting longer than an hour has decreased by 5%, and average session length has also decreased by 1 minute. Its data also reveals that customer interactions have increased by 12% between May and June; however, the majority of this was automated.