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UK survey finds online gambling in decline during lockdown

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According to a recent survey ordered by the Gambling Commission (UKGC), online gaming and wagering activity in the United Kingdom has decreased overall since coronavirus lockdown measures came into effect in March.

But the YouGov study also found that while casual gamblers may be spending less, regular punters are betting more and embarking on longer sessions than usual.

Online bookmakers have taken the biggest hit. With the British racing industry and the vast majority of the world’s sporting competitions on hiatus, sports betting activity has plummeted 31 per cent.

The survey, which was conducted on April 16-17, found that 4.8 per cent of UK residents had reduced the time they spent gambling in the four weeks since COVID-19 countermeasures were implemented.

Around 3.3 per cent said they had spent less money than usual on gambling during lockdown, while 1.8 per cent of respondents said they had stopped punting altogether.

Given the current lack of soccer betting, where online sportsbooks normally do a roaring trade, that downward trend among occasional and recreational gamblers is not surprising.

But while sports betting may be in decline, most other forms of online gambling have seen a sharp increase during the coronavirus shutdown.

Betting on real money slot games has risen 25 per cent, online poker play is up 38 per cent and virtual sports wagering has enjoyed a 40 per cent boom.

The survey also found that around two-thirds of regular gamblers are spending more time and money on the punt than ever before, with online gambling sessions of more than an hour jumping 23 per cent year-on-year for March.

Regulators have urged UK betting sites and online casinos to introduce various measures to protect at-risk gamblers, including a £50 daily wagering limit and hourly checks on active customers.

“Operators must use the data they hold to protect their customers and now, more than ever, it’s vital that online operators really know their customers by monitoring how long they are playing for and understanding how financial uncertainty is impacting them and what they can afford to gamble with,” said Neil McArthur, chief executive of the Gambling Commission.

“To ensure operators do that, we are strengthening our guidance and expect operators to take account of that to prevent bonus offers or inducements being offered to customers who are showing any sign of harm.”

Nigel Huddlestone, the minister for sport and tourism, echoed those sentiments and added that the British government would consider additional measures should UK casino sites and bookmakers be found wanting in their duty of care to customers.

“It is vital that people are protected from the threat of gambling-related harm and I welcome these latest steps from the Gambling Commission,” he said.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will not hesitate to take further action if required.”

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