The Gambling Commission has published further data for May 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 and uncertain about their personal, employment or financial circumstances. By the end of February, the Government had announced the roadmap out of lockdown 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. From 12 April, the retail sector, including licensed betting offices (LBOs), were given permission to open, with casinos, arcades and bingo premises permitted to re-open from 17 May.
Unlike the first lockdown announced in March 2020, the continuation of tier-1 sport in the most recent lockdown earlier this year meant there were many more real-event betting opportunities available to consumers. For the first time ever, events such as Cheltenham (March 2021) and the Grand National (April 2021) were held behind closed doors, with no spectators only online betting opportunities available.
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,.
Please note that given the lockdown restrictions and retail premises only being allowed to open from 12 April, we did not request data from LBOs again in May. We will restart collecting, analysing and publishing this data shortly.
The online gambling data, collected from the largest online operators, now covers the months March 2020 through to May 2021.
Year-on-year comparisons are not advised due to the differing circumstances affecting both years. For example, retail was in operation until 20 March in 2020, but fully closed in March 2021.
Despite strong real event margins, total GGY decreased by 5% (to just over £533m) between April and May.
The overall number of total bets/spins increased nearly 1% from April to May, while the number of active playersi decreased by 14%.
We will continue to collect and monitor the data to inform our views of risk
Online real event betting
Online real event betting GGY decreased 11% between April and May, to nearly £239m. The number of bets (13%) and active players (24%) both decreased between April and May, potentially reflecting the exit of recreational players who joined to participate in the English Grand National and the easing of restrictions which provided more entertainment and leisure opportunities for consumers.
Slots GGY increased 5% to £211m between April and May. The number of active accounts decreased 5% to 3m, while number of spins increased 2% to nearly 6.2bn.
Safer gambling indicators
The number of online slots sessions lasting longer than an hour decreased by 1% to just below 2.6m between April and May. The average session length increased to nearly 21 minutes, with nearly 9% of all sessions lasting in excess of one hour during May.
The number of customer interactions in May decreased 2% to 1m, with the majority remaining automated in natureii. The number of direct interactions undertaken by operators increased by 3%.