The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has published new data on the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on gambling behaviour, revealing an overall decrease in active players accounts between April and May.

The latest data from the UKGC and YouGov COVID-19 Tracker reflects two months of full lockdown in April and May, and highlights an increase in sports betting, partly due to the return of top-flight football with the German Bundesliga resuming in May.

The YouGov online survey shows that the lockdown period did not attract many new customers to gambling, with only 0.4 per cent of adults surveyed stating that they had started gambling for the first time during the last four weeks.

This compares with 2.1 per cent of adults who stopped gambling altogether during this period. Neither of these figures are significantly different from the rates recorded in the early lockdown period.

Operator data on overall active player accounts indicates a 1.2 per cent decrease between April and May, with the number of active players down across each of the verticals, excluding sports betting, which increased by 13 per cent month-on-month.

According to the survey, gambling participation has remained relatively stable over the past four weeks, within a range of 28 to 32 per cent. Sports betting participation fell to 1 per cent in early May but had risen to 5 per cent by mid-June as a result of the return of more elite-level sport, including the Premier League. This offset a decline in virtual sports participation, which was down from 3 per cent at the start of the YouGov tracking to 1 per cent in the latest survey.

For the UK National Lottery, four-week participation in draw-based games fell from 26 per cent in mid-April to 22 per cent by mid-June, with lottery sales having now recovered and only slightly down on normal levels. The survey notes that this was also the result of a change in customer behaviour, with a significant move from retail to digital products.

There was a slight decrease in the proportion of active players who engaged in more than one gambling activity during May, down from 43 per cent to 40 per cent.

Only 1.6 per cent of respondents said they had gambled online on activities that they used to take part in on premises or in person. In addition, only 2 per cent of recent gamblers said they had signed up to one or more gambling websites during the period.

Online operator data shows that with the exception of sports betting, which rose 13 per cent from April to May, there has been a fall in the number of active players for each vertical. This includes a 5 per cent decline in slots, a 4 per cent drop in other gaming products (including casino), an 11 per cent decline in poker and a 48 per cent decrease in virtual sports.

Between April and May, gross gambling yield (GGY) increased across slots (9 per cent), other gaming (1 per cent) and sports betting (64 per cent), offsetting a 12 per cent decline in virtual sports and a 9 per cent drop in poker GGY.

“We have previously highlighted our concerns about slots, so will continue to monitor data about the risks they may pose to consumers during the lockdown period,” said the UKGC.

Gaming Intelligence

The YouGov survey also asked recent gamblers whether they had increased the time or money spent on individual gambling activities, with the majority (73 per cent) indicating that they had not done so.

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