Insights Gambling Commission publishes May 2021 data showing impact of Covid-19 on gambling behaviour using operator data

The Gambling Commission has published further data showing how the evolving Covid-19 lockdown measures have impacted online gambling behaviour in Great Britain.

The operator data reflects the period between March 2020 and May 2021, inclusive, and covers both online and, where relevant, some offline gambling operator data, noting that land-based premises have only recently been able to open since closing in December 2020.

The Commission says that it is not advisable to make year-on-year comparisons between months in 2020 and months in 2021, due to differing operating circumstances of 2020 and 2021.

This update contains May’s operator data.

The Commission has also published related qualitative consumer research conducted by 2CV which asked questions of online gamblers about their gambling through the pandemic period and adds further insights to its ongoing data collection.

The latest online operator data for May 2021 shows:

  • activity in the online market decreased in May with active accounts and gross gambling yield (GGY) both decreasing 14% and 5% respectively, while total bets remained at a similar level;
  • slots GGY increased to £211 million during the period from April to May; the number of spins increased 2% and active players decreased 5%; and
  • the number of online slots sessions lasting longer than an hour decreased by 1% (to just below 2.6 million); the average session length increased to 20.7 minutes, with nearly 9% of all sessions lasting more than one hour.

The Commission says that the qualitative research supports the themes of previous quantitative research it has published in that many of those who took part have not changed their online gambling behaviour. However, some of the participants in the research reported spending more time gambling than they used to and told the Commission that the period has led to some experimentation with new products.

The Commission says that it recognises that the country is now entering a different phase as it continues to ease out of lockdown. The Commission says that it continues to expect extra vigilance from operators as consumers are impacted in different ways by the circumstances. Many people will still feel vulnerable as a result of the length of the pandemic period and further uncertainty about their personal or financial circumstances.

The Commission says that it is likely many have picked up new gambling routines and habits during lockdown that may be hard to change as things return to normal, even as normal spending on other things resumes. This could be challenging for some and important for operators to identify through their monitoring.

Some consumers, such as highly engaged gamblers who play a range of products, are likely to spend more time and money gambling and with high level sporting events taking place over the summer there are more opportunities for betting customers to gamble.

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;
  • avoid any temptation to exploit the current situation for marketing purposes, in particular as lockdown eases and be very cautious when seeking to cross-sell products; and
  • take particular care when on-boarding new customers and making decisions over affordability checks which reflect the environment we are in.

To read the Commission’s press release in full and for a link to the May 2021 data, click here.