Emerging data on long-term effects of Covid-19 on gambling

Peer-reviewed and qualitative information always follows interesting events, but takes a much longer time for it to reach the public than headlines.

There has been data and analysis posted on Covid-19 effects on gambling through the lens of business, economics, psychiatry and more; nevertheless, these are all connected when it comes to how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected some more long-term trends within the gambling industry. This article reviews some of the information that has recently come out in light of how the pandemic immediately impacted the gambling industry.

Even though there have been a lot of surveys conducted on the effects of the pandemic on gambling, these surveys have only tended to interview just a handful of candidates, often not reaching a sample size close to the thousands. This does not mean the data and results are unreliable, however it is very limited, in its scope to bring to light the implications on a whole public basis.

A recent cross-sectional review took into account a large number of these surveys to try and bring together all of the scattered results. What they found was that, at the initial onset of the pandemic, because of the closure of physical venues, like the traditional land-based gambling venues, all studies reported a decrease in gambling frequency as well as a fall in expenditure on gambling. The degree to which gamblers increased their gambling frequency via online gambling was variable across studies; with the most consistent increases in online gambling were among younger age groups, especially males.

FindBettingSites showcases information which relates to the gambling scene in the UK. From the report of the UK Gambling Commission, they showcase a varied effect of covid on UK gambling, however the predominant and general effect is that online gambling was supercharged in most areas due to the lockdowns. The most prominent example is that of live sports betting, especially when the national sports leagues, such as the English Premier League resumed their matches and fixtures, leading to record-breaking gross gambling yields in events betting in the UK. At the onset of the pandemic, Find Betting Sites’ research reports a drop of 20% in total gross gambling yield during the pandemic, before bouncing 241 million GBP in May 2021, a record-breaking figure.

There are clearly a diverse range of impacts which the pandemic has had on existing and new gamblers. Some gambling activity has transferred to the online gambling scene, where a lot of new gamblers are experimenting with games such as online casinos, but are not necessarily sticking to these new potential habits, as online casino saw a peak of active users in the first lockdown in the UK, but had not actually returned in future lockdowns, after having disappeared following the first pullback of lockdown restrictions in June 2020.

There was a predominant group of gamblers which transferred to gambling online from its land-based establishments, which showcased signs of anxiety or depression; and many studies have tried to highlight the risk factors associated with Covid-19 and gambling itself, which can have long-lasting consequences on gamblers.

This is however where the long-term effects of Covid-19 on gambling and its users start to diverge, as many risk factors which are associated with gambling are predominantly seen in older gamblers – i.e. ‘serial punters’ – as opposed to a younger audience, who are gambling for the first time during the pandemic and were seen mainly experimenting with gambling as opposed to spending a lot of money and time on it. These kinds of gamblers were seen to disappear from the gambling and betting operators once lockdowns were eased, however the aforementioned group of individuals who were gambling before the pandemic, were seen as a group with potential to be at higher risks of long-term consequences.

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