The Gambling Commission has published further data for March 2021 showing how the continued Covid-19 measures, with the changing lockdown restrictions across the nations of Great Britain, has impacted online gambling behaviour.
At the beginning of January people across the country were facing restrictions that meant they spent more time at home and may have been feeling vulnerable as a result of the restrictions and uncertainty about their personal, employment or financial circumstances. By the end of February, the Government had announced the roadmap out of lockdown restrictions as well as increased positivity around vaccine roll-out, with the first easing of restrictions taking place at the end of March, allowing individuals to socialise in groups of 6 outdoors.
Unlike the first lockdown announced in March 2020, the continuation of tier-1 sport in the most recent lockdown meant there were many more real-event betting opportunities available to consumers. For the first time ever, this meant that the annual Cheltenham festival which takes place in March was held behind closed doors with no spectators and no retail betting opportunities available to consumers.
Operators still need to be mindful about the potential of some consumers to be increasing their spend on some of the more intensive products whilst at the same time still engaging in real event betting activity, which was not meaningfully available during the initial lockdown.
Please note that given the lockdown restrictions and the furloughing of many staff, we did not request data from LBOs again in March. We will restart collecting this data after they reopen in April.
The online gambling data, collected from the largest online operators, now covers the months March 2020 through to March 2021.
Year-on-year comparison of March 2020 and March 2021 is not advised due to the differing circumstances affecting both months. For example, retail was in operation until 20th March in 2020, but fully closed in March 2021.
Additionally, it is also worth noting that February is a slightly shorter month in comparison to March.
GGY increased by 4% (to just over £546m) between February and March, a mix of structural growth (increase in active player numbers – with an increase in recreational players expected during the Cheltenham festival) and a decrease in operator margins for real event betting from the highs reported in recent months.
The overall number of total bets/spins increased by 12% from February to March, while the number of active players increased by 17%.
We will continue to collect and monitor the data to inform our views of risk, and if needs be we will not hesitate to take further action.
Online real event betting
Online real event betting GGY decreased by 5% between February and March, to just over £250m, as operator margins normalised. The number of bets (26%) and active players (25%) increased between February and March.
Slots GGY increased by 15% to a new peak in the period of reporting of nearly £203m during from February to March.i The number of spins (12% to nearly 6.2bn) and actives (10% to nearly 3.3m) also increased to new highs.
Safer gambling indicators
The number of online slots sessions lasting longer than an hour increased by 8% to reach a new peak (to 2.7m) between February and March. The average session length decreased to 21 minutes, with 8% of all sessions lasting in excess of 1 hour during February.
Similarly, the number of customer interactions hit their highest point in March, increasing 23% to nearly 1.2m, with the majority remaining automated in natureii. The number of direct interactions undertaken by operators increased by 13%.