Punters played online six times more during lockdown compared to before the pandemic
A study conducted by the University of Bristol found that online gambling has registered a steep increase in the UK during the ongoing pandemic.
The increase was mostly notably among regular and frequent punters who resulted to be more than six times more likely to gamble online during lockdown compared to before the pandemic.
The study, published by the Journal of Gambling Studies, concludes that online gambling saw the biggest increase during lockdown, irrespective of gambling frequency.
In regular gamblers, the proportion playing national lottery and doing private betting also increased but most other gambling activities remained stable or, for occasional gamblers, decreased in frequency.
A history of financial difficulties pre-COVID, and heavy regular use of alcohol, were also associated with regular gambling during lockdown, the study found.
Some 2,600 adults - aged 28 years on average - took part in the study, which also found that men were three times more likely than women to gamble regularly throughout lockdown.
Commenting in the results, Prof Alan Emond, lead author of the study, said that the report gives unique real-time insights into how people's attitudes and gambling behaviour changed during lockdown.
“The findings reveal that although many forms of gambling were restricted, a minority of regular gamblers significantly increased their gambling and betting online. As with so many repercussions of the pandemic, inequalities have been exacerbated and particularly vulnerable groups were worse affected.”
The study’s lead author said that with the wider availability of gambling through different online channels, vulnerable groups could get caught in a destructive cycle.
“A public health approach is needed to minimise gambling harms,” Prof Emond insisted.
Data from the biggest gambling operators in the UK, covering 80 per cent of the online gambling market (Gambling Commission, 2020), show that gross gambling yield increased during lockdown for online betting and online poker, but the biggest change was in betting online on e-sports, the income from which increased 3000 per cent during the lockdown period between March-June 2020.
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