Since the UK Gambling Commission’s primary aim is to protect players and lower the risks posed to them, the regulator has published data explaining how COVID-19 has impacted the UK gambling scene.
As the pandemic continues to affect everything and everyone in the UK and all over the world, the lockdown has brought significant player behavioural change and has had some major impacts on the industry as a whole. The watchdog wants to build a clearer picture to see the extent of damage COVID-19 has caused so far, so it has collected data from both consumer research and operators.
Gambling Behaviour in the UK Amid COVID-19
Considering COVID-19 is still not contained and it continues causing damage left and right, the UK Gambling Commission is trying to find out the extent of its impact on the gambling industry. Since land-based casinos have been shut down since the 20th of March, there has been a change in gambling behaviour across online casinos.
The UKGC published data which reflects the first full month of the COVID-19 lockdown in April and was collected from the YouGov COVID-19 tracker and the largest online operators. The data covers around 80% of the entire online gambling market, including representative samples for each week of approximately 2,000 adults in the UK, in the period from 16-17 April until 6-7 May, meaning over 8,000 adults aged 18+. The results, in short, show that the overall participation (the rate is taken from operator data on active player accounts) has decreased 5%, and only 0.2% of all adults surveyed said they had started gambling for the first time. But there are some already engaged players who were active and were spending more money and time gambling on certain products. They were also gambling on several products at a time, and even trying out new products. For instance, compared to the data from April 2019 which showed 26% of players engaging in more than one online gambling activity, this April, that figure rose to 42%.
Previous studies made by the UKGC showed that engagement across many activities could correlate to higher levels of problem gambling, and precisely because of that, the UK Gambling Commission has strengthened guidance for operators to ensure players were more protected from harm. In May, it has issued updated guidance for operators which included prevention of reverse withdrawal, improved affordability checks and restrictions on bonus offers.
Future Measures to be taken by the UKGC
Having assessed the implications, the UK Gambling Commission will continue assessing, tracking the situation and keep a close eye on the operators.
The risk will be assessed by collecting and publishing the data that will be gathered, assessing the impact of the strengthened guidance that was issued to operators, supporting the industry since the land-based casinos will begin to open, and taking further action where evidence identifies potential risks faced by players, in order to protect players. The regulator will continue investigating and trying to figure out how to keep players safe and operators running their businesses amid these uncertain times.