Online betting rises in Australia during pandemic

Young men increased their spending on online gambling.
Young men increased their spending on online gambling.

One in 20 Australian gamblers began to play online during the health crisis. About half were women. 

Australia.- The Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC) has released a new report confirming an increase in gambling frequency during the Covid-19 health crisis.  

During June and July, the entity surveyed 2,000 people in Australia to understand how they had changed their gambling habits during the period of restrictions on sports events and land-based casinos.  

It found that during the pandemic, the proportion of gamblers who participated online rose from 62 to 78 per cent. Meanwhile, closures of pubs and clubs led to a decrease in the proportion of gamblers using pokies, down from 23 per cent to 8 per cent, and in casinos, down from 4 per cent to 1 per cent.

The AGRC found that a third of respondents signed up for a new online betting account during the pandemic. About one in 20 started gambling online for the first time, and about half of them were women. 

The centre also found that respondents gambled more often during the crisis than before it, with the proportion who gambled 4 or more times a week increasing from 23 per cent to 32 per cent.

79 per cent of those consulted reported having spent money on gambling at least once a week during the past 12 months and one‑third did so over four times a week.  

Young men were more prone to increase their frequency and monthly spending on gambling, which rose from an average of $687 to $1,075. They were more at risk of gambling-related harm. 

The median expenditure changed little during the pandemic, rising from AU$500 in the 30 days before measures began to AUS$460 during the peak of the pandemic in Australia. But while young men did increase their spending, older men did not and women reduced their spending.  

The centre said: “Increases for all forms of racing (horse, greyhound and harness), sports, e‑Sports, lotto, and casino table games were observed, with most of these products available online”.

The frequency of gambling on pokies decreased significantly during the restrictions.

The preferred products for Australians to gamble on were horseracing, sports betting and lotto, followed by greyhound and harness racing. 

Most products did not see a great change in spending except casinos, poker, keno and bingo, which were impacted by the closure of venues.  

The AGRC said: “While participation in racing, sports and other wagering activities remained relatively stable, there were statistically significant decreases in gambling on most land‑based products during the restrictions.” 

The proportion of gambling spending dedicated to poker and electronic gambling machines fell from 35 per cent before the restrictions to 14 per cent in June and July. The proportion of spending represented by instant scratch tickets dropped from 13 per cent to 10 per cent, keno from 12 per cent to 6 per cent and casino table games from 10 per cent to 3 per cent.  

Australians increased their spending in loot boxes after the pandemic restrictions began. The report said 32 per cent of participants used or played online electronic games before the restrictions began, and 36 per cent did so during the health crisis. 

Another finding of the AGRC research is that the temporary closure of pokies venues led to some gamblers reporting they suddenly had more money for essential items and savings. 

Looking ahead, most of the survey participants and key experts interviewed by the AGRC said they would like to see a reduction in gaming promotion and advertising, especially sports betting advertising.  

They would also like to see more restrictions on access to pokies and land-based venues, as well as an increase in messaging about gambling harm.  

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