The UK Gambling Commission has published new data that shows the impact of the increased tightening of Covid-19 lockdown measures on the behaviour of online gambling in the UK.
The data reflects the period between March 2020 and February 2021. This is inclusive and it covers both online and (where relevant) some offline gambling operator data. They have also recognised that all land-based gambling operations have been closed since December 2020.
The first on this topic was posted in January and it showed the impact of the pandemic until November 2020. This new update covers the impact in the first two months of the new year.
The new data
After a busy period in December, activity in the online gambling market declined with a decrease of 4% in active accounts and 6% in bets. The overall gross gambling yield decreased by 19% from December to February. This is a normal trend, and it follows the general rule of the public tightening their belts after overextending their spending during the Christmas period. This should not come as a surprise and many safe betting sites will have already built this into their financial plan.
The gross gambling yield of online slot games decreased by 1% to nearly £177 million during the period from December to February. This is a result of the decreased number of bets on slots, 7% to below 5 billion. Despite the reduction in the total number of bets placed, the number of active accounts did not decrease. They remained at over 3 million, this peak was reached in January of 2021. Again, this follows a similar pattern. Most gamblers do not have a problem with regulating their betting and they have reduced this to match their needs at the beginning of the year.
In a similar fashion, the number of online slot sessions lasting longer than an hour decreased by 1% between December and February after peaking in January at 2.6 million. The average session length remains steady at 21.5 minutes, with around 9% of all sessions lasting more than one hour.
Covid-19 and esports betting
Esports Betting in the UK is still a relatively new industry. A report from the UK Gambling Commission back in July of 2020 showed that the esports betting industry had undergone a massive increase in popularity, with year-on-year growth of 2992% over the first few months of 2020.
That could be seen as a result of the suspension of in-person sporting events and the need for punters to place bets on whatever was available. In my opinion, it is also the result of a rapidly aging betting industry that realised where their bread was buttered. Nearly every sportsbook and casino have some sort of online offering and the quickest growing betting market online is esports.
While the betting industry may be seeing some declines from the extended lockdown period, esports betting is still a rapidly growing industry in the UK. As such it was important that the UK Gambling Commission also offered support for the operators and bettors that may find themselves with the issue of problem gambling.
They advised betting operators to avoid any temptation to exploit the current situation for marketing purposes and be very cautious when seeking to cross-sell products and to interact directly where triggers are reached with problem gambling, in addition to their more generic email engagement.