According to new research, regular gamblers were six times more likely to gamble online as compared to "before the occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic".
The study was led by the University of Bristol and published May 17 in the Journal of Gambling Studies. The study showed regular male gamblers were prone to gambling much more often online during the lockdown in the UK, compared to their previously-reported gambling habits.
Even though overall people gambled less frequently during the lockdown, mainly due to the fact that betting shops were closed, some types of gambling increased. For example, the usage of other types of online gambling such as bingo, poker and casino games grew six-fold amongst regular gamblers. Those who gambled occasionally were also found to be more than twice as likely than before to gamble online. Even those who had financial struggles before the pandemic were also more likely to engage in gambling during lockdown.
Lead author of the study Professor Alan Emond of the University of Bristol's Medical School said, "This study provides unique real time insights into how people's attitudes and gambling behavior changed during lockdown, when everyone was stuck inside and unable to participate in most social activities. The findings reveal that although many forms of gambling were restricted, a minority of regular gamblers significantly increased their gambling and betting online. As with so many repercussions of the pandemic, inequalities have been exacerbated and particularly vulnerable groups were worse affected."
The results of the comparative research, involving over 2,600 adults who participated in the survey, revealed that during lockdown men were three times more than likely than women to gamble regularly, described as more than once per week. Drinking heavily, described as more than six units in a session (equivalent to more than three pints of beer) at least once per week, was strongly linked to regular gambling among men and women. These findings are likely to be much greater in reality as the majority (70%) of respondents to the surveys in lockdown were women.
Professor Emond, also a public health expert, said, "The strong link between binge drinking and regular gambling is of particular concern, as they are both addictive behaviors which can have serious health and social consequences. With the wider availability of gambling through different online channels, vulnerable groups could get caught in a destructive cycle. A public health approach is needed to minimize gambling harms."
The research also builds on other evidence that claims regular gamblers turned to new online options during the lockdown, such as UK punters betting on eSports, since traditional live sporting events were temporarily suspended that time.