he UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) on Friday 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. The regulators said as the UK moves out of full lockdown, gambling behaviours have changed, but it still remarked the need for improved affordability checks, the prevention of reverse withdrawals and restrictions on bonus offers, measures included in its updated guidance to operators.
The latest online data, which covered the period where lockdown restrictions began to ease, shows that the gambling market has entered a new phase that presents potentially changing risks from gambling harm.
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 (Licensed Betting Office).
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.
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.
A potential marker of harm is the number of gambling activities or products undertaken by a consumer, according to the UKGC. 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.
Furthermore, the UKGC noted that since it 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). The 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.
The full report on Covid-19-related data is available on the Gambling Commission’s website.