Gambling Back to Pre-Pandemic Rates
On Friday, Australian National University released a study about gambling rates in Australia. The study looked at rates before, during, and after the pandemic, focusing on problem gambling rates. As expected, gambling rates among all citizens dropped drastically during the pandemic. However, once restrictions eased, those numbers started to climb.
Now, ANU’s report shows that gambling rates in Australia are back to pre-pandemic levels. According to Aino Suomi, the lead Author at the ANU Centre for Gambling Research, “Once lockdown restrictions began to ease, the gambling participation, as well as gambling risk, tended to increase across all categories, including non-gamblers.”
Online gambling in Australia soared during the pandemic. Spending on online gambling in Australia increased 67% during the pandemic, and some of these players were slow to return to the live venue once restrictions were lessened. This is likely one factor that it took until recently for live casino participation to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Aussies Gambled More Often During the Pandemic
The growth of online gambling led to an increase in the frequency of gambling amongst Aussies during the pandemic. According to ANU’s research, approximately one-third of gamblers created new online casino accounts during the pandemic.
According to the report, “Even with limited access to venues, overall, participants gambled more often during COVID-19.” Part of this is likely to the low-stakes nature of many online casinos. The average player can deposit as little as $10 and play real money online casino games. Live casino players generally spend more per person and thus play less often.
Of course, the report highlighted the segment of the population that fits the anti-gambling narrative. It shows, “The proportion who gambled four or more times a week increased from 23 to 32 per cent.” Players that gamble four or more times per week are the most susceptible to gambling addiction.
Restricting Access Prevents Harm – But Not for All Gamblers
The report was a bit of a good news, bad news scenario. It highlighted that restricting access to gambling has a net positive effect on problem gambling for those that play at lower-risk levels. This includes those that gamble on pokies or sports betting.
Dr Suomi points out that the results are important as pokies are considered one of the most addictive forms of gambling. However, the report also shows that restricting access did little to stop high-risk gamblers from participating. Those that were not gambling online started to do. This contributes to some of the increase in the problem gambling numbers.
Dr Suomi states that high-risk gamblers need additional support above merely restricting access. He also pointed out that many high-risk gamblers are more prone to sports betting than pokies.
She stated, “The important pattern is that those gambling at risky levels were participating in sports betting at disproportionately high levels pre-, during, and post-pandemic.”
This report highlights what many already knew. If you restrict or remove access to a potentially addictive activity, that will be enough to prevent harm.
However, for those already addicted, removing access tends to be a momentary stumbling block. That is why problem gamblers must receive additional support rather than further restricting the rights of responsible gamblers.