The pandemic has released its grip over online gambling trends as activity steadily decreases back to pre-Covid levels, with major sporting events once again becoming the key driver for increased activity. So, what happened to this wild west gambling spree during Covid?
The UK Gambling Commission has reported a steady decrease in online gambling activity as UK governments ease their COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, however major sporting events have been the real trendsetters.
During May, the Commission registered a 14 percent decrease in the number of active online gambling accounts to 10.8m, registering below the 12.5m players indexed during March and April. Online gambling GGY fell to £5.3bn – a 5 percent decline on April’s £5.6bn.
Active sportsbook accounts also declined in May to 5.1m, a 24 percent drop registered against April’s peak of 6.7m accounts, attributed to strong engagement with the Grand National Festival. As a result, GGY declines were registered across the board, with sports betting recording its lowest month this year at £238m, but with a revival expected from summer’s UEFA Euro 2020 championships. However, while sports betting dipped in May, slots GGY increased to £211m during the period, as the number of spins increased by 2 percent despite active accounts decreasing by 5 percent.
The Commission stated that the qualitative feedback supported themes presented by its quantitative research, in which participants ‘reported spending more time gambling than they used to and had ‘some experimentation’ with new gambling products.
What a surprise; the Gambling Commission scratching around to find any stat that will support its somewhat crazy rhetoric of a crisi a’comin’.
Backtracking the UKGC statement read: “We recognise that the country is now entering a different phase as we continue to ease out of lockdown. Operators still need to be mindful about the potential of some consumers to be increasing their spend on some of the more intensive products whilst at the same time still engaging in real event betting activity.”
However, from the Commission’s own data, it is clear that what is largely affecting the rate and shape of gambling trends are one-off sporting events, not pandemic phases. Every year, people will bet on the Grand National for the first time, or on a major football tournament for the first time. For many, this is not ‘some experimentation’ as the Commission suggests, but a rite of passage in the rich traditions of British culture. Indeed, as much as the Gambling Commission and anti-gambling campaigners would like to paint a picture of society in which participating in ‘games of chance’ is not normal, the thread of gambling is deeply woven into the tapestry of life in Britain, and for many it is a deeply valued activity.