Insights Gambling Commission publishes further data showing the impact of Covid-19 on gambling behaviour in January and February 2021

The Gambling Commission has published further data showing how the further tightening of Covid-19 lockdown measures has impacted online gambling behaviour in Great Britain. The data reflects the period between March 2020 and February 2021 inclusive, and covers both online and (where relevant) some offline gambling operator data, noting that all land-based premises have been closed since December 2020.

The latest online operator data from the first two months of 2021 shows:

·         activity in the online market declined following a traditionally busy period in December, with a decrease of 4% in active accounts and 6% in bets, while gross gambling yield (GGY), decreased by 19% from December to February;

·         slots GGY decreased by 1% to nearly £177 million during the period from December 2020 to February 2021. The number of bets also decreased (7% to below 5bn), while the number of active accounts remained steady after peaking at 3m in January; and

·         the number of online slots sessions lasting longer than an hour decreased by 1% (to 2.5 million) between December and February after peaking in January at 2.6 million (up 4% since December); the average session length remains steady at 21.5 minutes, with around 9% of all sessions lasting more than one hour.

Against the background of this data, and the Commission’s experience of the pandemic period so far, the Commission says that extra operator vigilance continues to be needed during the current national lockdown conditions because:

·         most people will be spending more time at home and online and many people are likely to be feeling more isolated and vulnerable as a result of the length of the pandemic period, the new restrictions and further uncertainty about their personal or financial circumstances;

·         some consumers, such as highly engaged gamblers who play a range of products, are likely to spend more time and money gambling and the fact that sport will continue during this lockdown will mean there are more opportunities for betting customers to gamble; and

·         some people may gamble for the first time.

The Commission wrote to operators at the beginning of the recent lockdown to remind them of the guidance it initially issued in May 2020 to online operators, and their responsibilities during this challenging period for the country. The Commission expects operators to:

·         continue to follow the strengthened guidance issued during the first lockdown, taking close interest in data that shows consumers expanding their portfolio of games and spending more time or money than before;

·         interact directly where triggers are reached, in addition to their more generic email engagement; and

·         avoid any temptation to exploit the current situation for marketing purposes and be very cautious when seeking to cross-sell products.

The Commission says that it will continue to monitor operators very closely and conduct its compliance assessments during this latest lockdown as it did in 2020. To read the Commission’s press release in full and for links to its guidance, click here.