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Press release

Data shows the impact of Covid-19 on gambling behaviour in January and February 2021

26 March 2021

The Gambling Commission has published further data showing how the further tightening of Covid-19 lockdown measures has impacted online gambling behaviour in Great Britain.

The data reflects the period between March 2020 and February 2021, inclusive, and covers both online and (where relevant) some offline gambling operator data, noting that all land-based premises have been closed since December.

This update contains both January and February operator data.

The latest online operator data the first two months of 2021 shows:

  • activity in the online market declined following a traditionally busy period in December, with a decrease of 4% in active accounts1 and 6% in bets, while gross gambling yield (GGY), decreased by 19% from December to February
  • slots GGY decreased by 1% to nearly £177m during the period from December to February. The number of bets also decreased (7% to below 5bn), while the number of active accounts remained steady after peaking at 3m in January
  • the number of online slots sessions lasting longer than an hour decreased by 1% (to 2.5m) between December and February after peaking in January at 2.6m (up 4% since December). The average session length remains steady at 21.5 minutes, with around 9% of all sessions lasting more than one hour.

Against the background of this data, and our experience of the pandemic period so far, extra operator vigilance continues to be needed during the current national lockdown conditions because: 

  • most people will be spending more time at home and online and many people are likely to be feeling more isolated and vulnerable as a result of the length of the pandemic period, the new restrictions and further uncertainty about their personal or financial circumstances
  • we know that some consumers, such as highly engaged gamblers who play a range of products, are likely to spend more time and money gambling and the fact that sport will continue during this lockdown will mean there are more opportunities for betting customers to gamble
  • we know that some people may gamble for the first time.

We wrote to operators at the beginning of the recent lockdown to remind them of the guidance we initially issued in May to online operators and their responsibilities during this challenging period for the country.

We expect them to: 

  • continue to follow the strengthened guidance issued during the first lockdown, taking close interest in data that shows consumers expanding their portfolio of games and spending more time or money than before  
  • interact directly where triggers are reached, in addition to their more generic email engagement
  • avoid any temptation to exploit the current situation for marketing purposes and be very cautious when seeking to cross-sell products.
  • assessing the impact of the strengthened guidance issued to operators
  • monitoring key data and collecting and publishing this additional data
  • supporting the industry as land-based premises adjust to changing restrictions - where evidence identifies additional risks faced by consumers, taking further action to protect consumers
  • take particular care when on-boarding new customers and making decisions over affordability checks which reflect the environment we are in.

The Commission will continue to:

  • take steps to permanently strengthen regulatory requirements, encompassing changes to Remote Technical Standards (RTS) and Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) to protect consumers as we have over the last year on ad-tech, game design and high value customer programmes
  • monitor operators very closely and conduct our compliance assessments during this latest lockdown as we did last year. 

Read market update.

Read operator data.

1This is the total number of times activity has taken place across all verticals; therefore, an active account may be counted more than once.

Note to editors

For all media enquiries, please contact the Gambling Commission press office.

Last updated: 10 August 2021

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