Study: Male Gamblers Were More Likely To Gamble Online During Lockdown
Male gamblers were particularly prone to gambling more often online during the UK lockdown compared to their previous gambling habits, according to a study led by the University of Bristol in the Journal of Gambling Studies. Regular gamblers increased their use of online gambling, such as poker, bingo, and casino games. An increase was also found in free bet sign up searches. Many online gambling sites typically offer deals such as free bets to entice their customers to use their site.
Although men and women gambled less frequently during the lockdown, due in part to the closure of betting shops, some types of gambling increased. Even those who gambled on a regular basis were found to be more than twice as likely to gamble online.
The lead author of the research, Professor Alan Emond of the University of Bristol's Medical School, said that the study offers unique real-time insights into how people's attitudes and gambling behaviour changed during the lockdown. Even though many forms of gambling were prohibited, the findings show that a small percentage of regular gamblers increased their online gambling and betting.
The comparative research used two online questionnaires that surveyed the same group of adults, with an average age of 28, who had previously been asked similar questions about gambling as part of the renowned Children of the 90s study, also known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). More than 2,600 adults took part in the survey, with the results revealing that men were three times more likely than women to gamble on a weekly basis during the lockdown.
Upon finding that regular drinking was linked to increased online gambling, Professor Emond said that the strong connection between binge drinking and regular gambling is particularly concerning, as both are addictive behaviours with severe health and social consequences.
The study builds on previous evidence, such as the YouGov Covid-19 tracker study, which found that regular gamblers turned to new online options during the lockdown. Data from the Gambling Commission taken from the UK's largest gambling operators also showed increased revenues during the online gambling ban, particularly in esports, which exploded in popularity as traditional bets on live sporting events were suspended. Children are particularly engaged with esports gambling advertised on social media, according to previous research published in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing by the University of Bristol.
Co-author and online advertising expert Agnes Nairn said that the trends being reported are quite alarming. The rise in home working is also a key factor to consider in future policymaking, as the temptation to gamble online, aided by clever advertising, is always present. Children are also susceptible to social media advertising, particularly for esports, and may develop addictive habits at a young age. To protect unwitting consumers, stricter regulation is required in this rapidly expanding field, she added.
Government to Review Regulations on Gambling
The review examines in detail how gambling has changed in the past 15 years. The propositions from the findings of the review will include protections for online gamblers regarding their state and spending limits, advertising and promotional offers like free bet sign up, and whether young adults are protected fully by the regulation.
The findings from the review will be considered when applying changes to the Gambling Act of 2005 so that the customer is protected while giving them peace of mind that they can gamble safely.
Customers will also be checked whether they felt that operators had broken social responsibility requirements like intervening to protect their customers from problematic play and keeping children and underage people from any gambling-related harm. The Government emphasises the need for balance in terms of enjoying and regulation from gambling.
Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, said that the Gambling Act has become obsolete and seems like an analogue law in the digital age, saying that the industry has evolved faster than the law can keep up with. The comprehensive review will ensure that the Government is taking on these problems in gambling and protecting children and vulnerable people from harm, he added.
Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage, Nigel Huddleston, said the Government is committed to protecting young people from the negative effects of gambling, which is why the National Lottery's minimum age has been raised. Since its inception, play patterns have changed, with a shift toward online games, and this shift will help ensure that the National Lottery, while already low-risk, does not become a gateway to problem gambling.
The Government issued a call for evidence in September 2020 to look into young people's experiences with loot boxes in video games. This was done to give the Government a better idea of the size of the loot box market in the UK and to have a thorough examination of any evidence of harm or links to problem gambling.
The Gambling Act 2005 will be reviewed to ensure that the Gambling Commission has the necessary powers and resources to keep up with the licensed sector and combat the black market.
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