The Gambling Commission has published further data for December 2020 showing how the continued tightening of Covid-19 measures, with the implementation of a pre-Christmas lockdown in England, has impacted online gambling behaviour.
Data collected in December shows some similarities to gambling behaviour as seen during the first lockdown, which began in March 2020, where online gambling became the only means of gambling activity.
Although there are some similarities, one of the main differentiating factors has been the continuation of top-tier sporting events, which were previously banned in the first lockdown.
People across the country are now facing restrictions that are likely to mean they are spending more time at home and some people may be feeling vulnerable as a result of the restrictions and uncertainty about their personal, employment or financial circumstances.
Operators 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 tightening of lockdown restrictions and the furloughing of many staff, we did not request data from LBOs again in December. We will restart collecting this data at a time when LBOs are able to reopen.
The online gambling data, collected from the largest online operators, now covers the months March 2020 through to December 2020.
GGY increased by 30% (to almost £614m) between November and December, driven by both structural growth (player numbers) and another increase in operator margins for real event betting, as we reported for October.
The overall number of total bets/spins increased by 12% from November, while the number of active players1 increased by 6%.
We will continue to collect and monitor the data to inform our views of risk, and if these changes appear to be more than short-term fluctuations, we will not hesitate to take further action.
Online real event betting
Online real event betting GGY increased by 53% between November and December, to over £319m, as operator margins reached a level similar to October. December is traditionally seen as a busy month for betting, including Christmas Premier League fixtures and other sporting events, all of which contributed to real event betting cementing its position as by far the largest vertical by GGY, with increases seen in the number of bets (up by 2%) and the number of active players (up by 3%).
Slots GGY increased by 13% to nearly £200m during December. The number of bets also increased (12% to almost 6bn) along with the number of active accounts (up 6% to almost 3m), both of which are the highest figures for slots from within the Covid-19 pandemic period.
Safer gambling indicators
The number of online slots sessions lasting longer than an hour increased by 11% (to 2.5m) between November and December; a rate of growth slightly slower than the increase in overall session numbers (13%). The average session length decreased slightly to 21.5 minutes, with once again around 8% of all sessions lasting in excess of 1 hour.
Between November and December, the total number of customer interactions undertaken fell by 3%, of which the majority were automated in nature. This is the first decrease since March 2020. Although the majority remain automated in nature2, there has been a slight increase in the number of direct interactions undertaken by operators.
Operator data indicates that during December, the proportion of those interactions that were direct contact from staff has risen slightly to 4%.