The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) published on Friday further data showing the impact of COVID-19 upon UK gamblers.
The data shows the impact upon gambling in April which was the first full month of lockdown restrictions. In March, when the lockdown began the UKGC was very quick to issue a set of guidelines to gambling companies. Amid growing fears that problem gamblers would suffer most under lockdown conditions, the UKGC set out a strong set of guidelines including hourly checks on gamblers, to ensure problem gamblers are afforded some level of appropriate protection in a difficult and testing time.
Well, the first set of data released by the UKGC actually shows that overall participation in gambling in the UK in April decreased. However, the report did show that some players spent more time and more money gambling on certain products in the first month of lockdown.
Gambling Participation Down in First Month of Lockdown
It was found by YouGov that April's gambling participation remained relatively stable, with the exception of massive declines in National Lottery and Sports betting participation in National Lottery draws and sports betting. However, there was a significant increase in the number playing National Lottery online scratchcards.
The complete closure of all global sports betting meant that real-event betting plummeted 55% from the month before, which helped take the overall number to a 5% decline. Meanwhile, online activity jumped around 42% in April
The YouGov research also shows that around a third of gamblers say they have tried one or more gambling activities for the first time during the lockdown period. 18% of this group admitted having tried betting on virtual races or e-sports for the first time during the last four weeks.
Around the same number (18%) also declared trying out online bingo sites for the very first time in April.
Importantly, the average session length reported by operators has not changed. The proportion of sessions lasting more than one hour remained at around one in eight, the same as April.
Although the figures only represent the first month of lockdown, the early signs are that there has not been a worrying shift online leaving vulnerable gamblers unprotected. With May and June's figures to follow, this may be a very different story.