COVID-19 Lockdowns Lead to Another Spike in UK Online Gambling

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More national lockdowns might be bad news for most British businesses but, according to a recent UK Gambling Commission report, it could be a positive for online operators.

Lockdown sign
UK gambling sites are seeing another increase in activity as a result of recent national COVID-19 lockdowns. (Image: PA Wire/ITV)

The latest figures from the UK Gambling Commission show that COVID-19 restrictions are keeping people betting online.

Although October’s numbers don’t match the surge of activity seen at the start of the pandemic, they do show month-on-month gains in certain areas.

UK Gambling Up Again as Restrictions Increase

Gross gambling yield for the UK’s online betting and gaming industry was up 29% in October. This upswing was due to a variety of factors, including a 7% increase in active accounts.

Betting on live sport was the “main driver” of growth, but the UKGC also notes greater “operator margins” as a contributing factor. In addition to more people betting on sport, the average amount of time spent playing online slots was up 12%.

The UKGC has been tracking the impact of COVID-19 restrictions and betting behavior since March. The data shows that activity across all verticals, including poker, has increased due to lockdowns and other restrictions.

What’s perhaps most encouraging is the fact recent changes haven’t led to an increase in problem gambling. December’s press release does note “the potential for an increase in intensity of play.” However, in terms of total activity, the UKGC’s safer gambling indicators have remained steady since July.

COVID-19 Causing Highs and Lows

COVID-19’s impact on the UK gambling industry was obvious from the start. Lockdowns in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland resulted in a surge of activity across all major online networks.

Search queries for key poker phrases also increased and, as operators launched new MTTs, prize pools soared.

Traffic dropped as the UK transitioned from its first full lockdown to a partial one. However, as fresh restrictions came in at the end of October, online activity increased again.

With fears that Prime Minster Boris Johnson will impose a third national lockdown after Christmas, UK operators could see another spike in activity. But, with economic pressures beginning to bite and mounting opposition to what looks like flawed strategy, the outlook for 2021 could be bleak.

We know that live gaming has taken a hit, but further unrest could hit the online sector. If consumers are further affected by the negative impact of lockdowns, online sites may not fare as well next time around.

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