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Market overview for July 2020 - consumer research

Behaviour change during and post lockdown

We are continuing to publish consumer research collected to see to understand potential risks to consumers as a result of the Covid-19 period. This month we are publishing consumer research data collected via the Populus online omnibus[1].  We used this survey to explore how people’s gambling behaviour (rather than participation) has changed as a result of the lockdown period, including shifts to online gambling and whether changes have been maintained post-lockdown.[2]

The Populus survey[3] asked respondents about their gambling behaviour in three distinct periods:

  • Pre-lockdown (January to mid-March)
  • During lockdown (mid-March to mid-June)
  • Post-lockdown (mid-June up to the date the survey took place[4])

The gambling activities included in the survey were: scratchcards (in person), fruit/slot machines or machines in bookmakers (in person), bingo (in person or online), pre-event betting (in person or online), in-play betting (in person or online), casino games (in person or online) and instant win games or slots (online).

The Populus data allows us to measure the impact of the Covid-19 period on both those who gambled before lockdown and those who did not, including channel and product shifts and whether these have been maintained.  The diagram below summarises behaviour change during and post lockdown and provides population level percentages for where behaviour has changed and an increase in risk of harms.

percentage of population in each category

Looking back at the impact of lockdown, the survey shows that at a population level, relatively few people changed their gambling participation during lockdown, although there were elements of shifting to online products in the absence of land-based opportunities, with some of these new behaviours being maintained post-lockdown.


  • 2.7% of the population did not gamble before lockdown but then went on to gamble online during lockdown.  Between lockdown easing and when fieldwork took place, the majority of this cohort returned to non-gambler status, but smaller proportions retained online gambling behaviours or started in-person gambling.
  • 2.0% of the population gambled in-person before lockdown and shifted channel to online during lockdown, with more than half this number continuing to gamble online (sometimes alongside a return to in-person participation) post-lockdown.
  • 5.1% of the population gambled before lockdown and shifted one or more products online (e.g. from football betting to online slots) during lockdown, however only a minority of this group (0.8% of the total population) maintained the new products since lockdown.

Changes in spend

The Populus data shows that those who gambled pre-lockdown were more likely to decrease their spend during lockdown than increase it, with 13% reporting an increase in spend and 24% a reduction.  Since lockdown has eased, the proportion changing their spend has reduced, with almost three quarters (73%) reporting no change compared to before.

difference in gambling spending during lockdown

Reasons for increased spend during lockdown centred around wanting to alleviate boredom and having more free time while those decreasing their spend cited mainly fewer opportunities to gamble and financial reasons.

table showing those who said their gambling spend increased during lockdown

The Populus survey also provides an indication of how and why consumer spend may be impacted over the next 3 months.  Respondents were more likely to anticipate a decrease in their gambling spend (30%) than an increase (4%) over this period. 

How much you expect to spend on gambling in the next 3 months

The main reasons for expecting spend to decrease were financial insecurity and needing to save money.

Those who said they will spend less money gambling in the next 3 motnhs

[1] This survey is separate from the Commission’s quarterly online survey, which is also run by Populus.

[2] Read our latest official statistics on gambling participation from our quarterly telephone survey. 

[3] A UK nationally representative sample of 2,255 adults aged 16 and over participated in the Populus online omnibus survey and fieldwork took place between 17-19 July and 15-16 August. 

[4] In light of different timescales for easing of lockdown in England, Scotland and Wales, the question clarified this period as, ‘since non-essential shops re-opened in your area’. The post-lockdown period covered in the consumer survey does not exactly align with the monthly operator data.  Also, when using the survey to compare post-lockdown data with data from before and during lockdown, it is important to note that the post-lockdown period covers a shorter time frame than the earlier periods.