No evidence of sustained increase in gambling activity, says UKGC

The UK Gambling Commission says that its latest data shows that across the population as a whole “there is no evidence of a significant or sustained increase in gambling activity” during the COVID-19 period.

The comments come as the regulator publishes further data documenting how the renewed tightening of lockdown measures has impacted gambling behaviour in Great Britain.

Reasserting the necessity for operators to demonstrate extra vigilance during the current climate, as outlined last week by Neil McArthur, chief executive of the UKGC, the latest data reflects the period between March and November, inclusive, and covers both online gambling and consumer research.

Overall, the regulator states that “there has not been a significant or sustained increase in gambling activity since the COVID-19 pandemic began”.

Taking the data from a nationally representative sample of over 3,000 adults, six in ten say the amount they gamble has been unaffected by COVID-19, with 27 per cent reporting a decrease and 13 per cent documenting a rise in activity.

Online offerings have, as expected, demonstrated the highest proportion of new players since the pandemic began, with the consumer data, taken from the Yonder online omnibus, showing that gamblers anticipate their spending remaining the same, or decreasing over the next three months, with three per cent expecting an increase.

The research also suggests that women aged under 35 are more likely than average to have started gambling since March 2020, where they hadn’t gambled before, with men in the same age bracket the most likely to have increased their gambling activity.

The latest operator data shows that activity in the online market grew, with a month-on-month increase of three per cent in active accounts and four per cent in bets, while gross gambling yield dropped 13 per cent as a result of real event betting margins normalising.

Slots GGY increased by three per cent to nearly £177m and the number of bets rose by four per cent to over 5.2bn, as the number of active accounts, up one per cent to 2.8m, represents a figure which is the highest from within the pandemic period.

The number of online slots sessions lasting longer than an hour increased by three per cent to 2.2m in October to November; one per cent higher than the increase in overall sessions which is up two per cent to 27.5m. 

The average session length increased by one minute to 22 minutes, with around eight per cent of all sessions lasting in excess of one hour.

The UKGC says that the average loss-per-player in the online slots vertical “continues to remain meaningfully higher than any other online gambling product,” coming in at nearly £63 versus £43 for real event betting and £35 for casino.

During October and November the number of customer interactions undertaken rose by three per cent to a fraction above one million. of which the majority were automated in nature. Operator data indicates that during November, the proportion of those interactions that were direct contact from staff has fallen slightly to 3.7 per cent.