Huge rise in online gambling amid end-of-year coronavirus restrictions

Zoe Tidman
·2-min read
The Gambling Commission have warned people are likely to be feeling vulnerable as a result of current restrictions (Getty Images)
The Gambling Commission have warned people are likely to be feeling vulnerable as a result of current restrictions (Getty Images)

Coronavirus restrictions towards the end of last year were accompanied by a spike in online gambling, new statistics have revealed.

The gross gambling yield among the biggest operators increased by 30 per cent between November and December, according to data from the Gambling Commission.

Meanwhile, the total number of bets rose by 12 per cent and the number of active players rose by 6 per cent over the same period.

The Gambling Commission’s analysis also found the number of online slot bets rose to six billion and active accounts rose to three million in December - both records for online slots during the coronavirus pandemic period.

The commission said their data - which covers around 80 per cent of the online gambling market - shows the impact of the “continued tightening” of coronavirus restrictions on online gambling behaviour in Great Britain.

Betting shops had to close in areas of England under tier 4 restrictions in December, which were first introduced across London and swathes of the southeast days before Christmas.

More places were moved into the highest tier level as the month went on, with more than 40 per cent of the country’s population under the “stay at home” order on Boxing Day.

Betting shops also had to close as Wales went into lockdown in December, as well as in mainland Scotland from Boxing Day.

But even before December’s closures, betting shops across Great Britain had already faced time shut under restrictions, including during England’s month-long lockdown in November.

Hundreds of betting shops were also shut in areas of Scotland under the highest tier restrictions between mid-November and mid-December, according to the Betting and Gaming Council.

The Gambling Commission said the latest data shows “some similarities to gambling behaviour” during lockdown last spring, when online gambling was the only way to gamble.

However unlike the first round of measures introduced in 2020, top-tier sporting events have been allowed to continue throughout the latest coronavirus restrictions.

The Gambling Commission said people are likely to be spending more time at home than usual and could be feeling vulnerable as a result of current coronavirus restrictions and their impact.

“Operators need to be mindful about the potential of some consumers to be increasing their spend on some of the more intensive products whilst at the same time still engaging in real event betting activity, which was not meaningfully available during the initial lockdown,” the commission warned.

It comes after gambling companies were ordered to introduce tough new measures to protect players from addictive online slot machines.

The Gambling Commission said operators had to slow down games to a maximum speed of 2.5 seconds per spin and stop the use of sounds and lights that make a loss feel like a win.

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