GC: Gambling under lockdown continues to decline

12 June 2020

The percentage of the British public who have gambled appears to be in decline as lockdown continues, but online casino play is on the rise, according to new data from the Gambling Commission.

A survey conducted by the regulator and YouGov asked a total of 8,713 people across four waves of 2,100-2,400 respondents, with each wave conducted a week apart. The Commission released the data on those surveyed in the first wave, on 16 to 17 April, last month.

According to the regulator, the percentage of people who said on 6 to 8 May that they had not gambled in the previous four weeks was 70.3%. With 1.3% saying they did not know, the remaining 28.4% said they had gambled.

This marks a change from those surveyed between 16 and 17 April, of which 66.2% said they had not gambled and 1.8% said they did not know, leaving 32.0% who had gambled.

The percentage of those who had not gambled increased week-on-week each of the four times they survey was carried out.

National Lottery draws remained far the most popular form of gambling, with 22.7% of respondents buying tickets in the four weeks ending 8 May. This marked a decline from 25.6% that bought tickets in the four weeks ended 17 April.

Online slots, however, increased in popularity from 1.8% of people in the four weeks ending 16-17 April to 2.2% in the four weeks ending 6-8 May. Similarly, online non-slot casino play increased from 1.0% in the four weeks ended 17 April, to 1.4% in the month ending 8 May.

Sports betting was also in decline with almost no sporting action to bet on. Just 1.3% said they had placed a bet in the four weeks to 8 May, compared to 2.8% in the four week period to 17 April.

Virtual sports have declined in popularity since the first wave, from 2.5% to 1.5%, while esports betting ticked slightly upwards from 0.4% to 0.5%.

The percentage of the population classed as “engaged gamblers" - those gambling three or more times in the prior four weeks - also declined, from 2.0% in the first wave , to an average of 1.4% between the next three waves surveyed in the following weeks. This figure was not broken down by date of survey after the first wave.

The three follow-up surveys did not include a question about whether respondents spent more time or money gambling in the past four weeks or since lockdown started, which was only asked as part of the first wave. This saw 1.8% respondents saying they had stopped gambling entirely, with a further 3.3% claiming to have cut spend, and 4.8% telling YouGov that they had reduced time spent gambling.

Meanwhile, just 0.2% said they started gambling since the UK-wide lockdown was announced and only 1.2% of existing players claimed to have increased spend, while 1.5% increased time gambling.

Instead, following rounds of the survey only asked whether respondents had spent more time or money on any one particular gambling vertical. The survey found that 25.0% of respondents and 62.4% of “engaged gamblers” had spent more time or money on any one particular type of game, though it did not reveal how many of these respondents were spending more time or money overall.

Of those who spent more time or money on a new game, that new game was most frequently National Lottery draws, with 7.6% saying they spent more time on the lottery than before and 13.6% spending more money.

The survey also added a new question for the latter three waves of respondents about gambling advertisements. Of these respondents, 31.2% said they had seen advertisements for the National Lottery’s draws with a further 11.1% seeing ads for National Lottery instant win games. A further 28.9% said they had seen marketing for online bingo.

Online slots ads were seen by 17.1% of respondents, while ads for online non-slot casino games were seen by 17.5%. Traditional sports betting ads were seen by 5.8% of people, with a further 2.7% viewing esports betting ads and 7.0% seeing marketing for virtual sports.