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Press release

Data showing the impact of Covid-19 on gambling behaviour

04 May 2021

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

The operator data reflects the period between March 2020 and March 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.

It is not advisable to make year-on-year comparisons between March 2020 and March 2021, due to differing operating circumstances of the two months.

This update contains March operator data, as well as an update to February data following an operator re-submission, and consumer research data covering the period from January to March.

The latest online operator data for March 2021 shows:

  • Activity in the online market increased in what is a traditionally busy period due to the Cheltenham festival, with an increase on February of 17% in active accounts 1 and 12% in bets placed, while gross gambling yield (GGY), increased by 4%.
  • Slots GGY increased by 15% to nearly £203m during the period from February to March. The number of bets (12% to near 6.2bn) and active players (10% to over 3.2m) also increased.
  • The number of online slots sessions lasting longer than an hour increased by 8% (to 2.7m). The average session length decreased to 20.8 minutes, with 8% of all sessions lasting more than one hour.

The consumer research data for January to March 2021 shows:

  • Among adults who have gambled in the last 12 months, claimed levels of gambling activity show a further increase in Quarter 1 2021 compared to Quarter 4 2020 which can be attributed, at least in part, to the latest lockdown.
  • 18% of past 12 month gamblers say their gambling has increased since the pandemic began, compared to 13% in the previous combined three-month period.

Against the background of this data, and our experience of the pandemic period so far, extra operator vigilance continues to be needed. Although the easing of restrictions is beginning to take place, operators still need to be mindful that:

  • People will still 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 restrictions that are still in place 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 with high level sporting events taking place over the next few months 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.
  • Take particular care when on-boarding new customers and making decisions over affordability checks which reflect the environment we are in.

The Commission continues to track Covid-19 related risk by:

  • 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.

and 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.

The market update and operator data can be found in the statistics section of the website, along with the consumer update and corresponding consumer 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: 22 June 2023

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