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Latest ACMA Study Shows iGaming Down During Covid
The latest study by the Australian Communications and Media Authority shows some interesting trends in online activities this year during the period of the coronavirus pandemic. Most interesting to advocates and opponents of the gambling industry is the decrease in online gambling.
While other researchers and anti-gambling organizations claimed that people were turning to online gambling in droves due to the closures of pubs, clubs, and casinos, the ACMA consumer survey released last week tells a different story.
Overall Survey Findings
The report is titled “Trends in online behaviour and technology usage” and compiles data from an annual consumer survey of Australian adults. This one was conducted in June 2020. The nation was still in the middle of the pandemic with the vast majority of nonessential businesses remaining closed at that time.
The overall finding is that more Aussies use the internet than ever before.
Last year, the study found 90% of Australians claimed the internet was central to their lives. In 2020, that number rose to 99%.
Numerous other interesting increases in online activities followed in the report:
- 2019 use of social networking app at 63%, 2020 use up to 72%
- Average users used 4.4 types of devices to access the internet, up from 4.0 in 2019
- 93% of social network users used Facebook, 73% YouTube, 57% Instagram
- 84% increased participation in telehealth consultations
- 77% of Aussie adults used a communication app, up from 67% in 2019
- 82% increased use of video conferencing and calls
- 65% worked online from home since March 2020
- Fixed home phone line usage was 44% in 2019, down to 40% in 2020
- 91% used mobile phones to access internet
- 76% used laptops to access internet, followed by tablets, smart TVs, desktop computers
While this remains only a snapshot in time, it illustrates a drastic increase in online activities in the past year, with the pandemic prompting even more of an increase than analysts expected.
As for various forms of gambling, the study asked about participation in several activities.
Regarding lottery tickets, those surveyed used the internet to purchase them at a rate of 15% in 2019, which increased to 18% in 2020.
In the six months leading to June 2020:
- 1% first started buying lottery tickets online
- 7% increased participation in online lottery ticket sales
- 70% didn’t change their habits
- 22% decreased purchases online
For general gambling, adult Australians used the internet to gamble at a rate of 9%. That number actually decreased by June 2020 to 8%.
In this category and for the six months leading to June 2020:
- 2% first started gambling online
- 19% increased some form of online gambling
- 45% did not change
- 34% gambled online less during this time
Different Results, Different Studies
An analytics consulting firm called AlphaBeta Australia partnered with Illion, a credit bureau, to study the economic impacts of Covid-19. By studying the transactions of about 250,000 customers, the study found a 67% increase in online gambling participation.
The weekly increases varied, but the week ending April 26 saw a 71% increase, with the following week showing a 142% rise. These surges were second only to sharp increases in food deliveries.
However, over in New Zealand, the Health Promotion Agency conducted a study to assess the impact of Covid0-19 during the second week of April. That showed a similar result as the ACMA research.
- 8% gambled online for the first time
- 33% didn’t change their online gambling behaviour
- 12% gambled more than usual
- 24% reduced their online gambling spending
- 23% did not gamble online at all
Even with those numbers, the majority of respondents played the lottery on MyLotto. Only 14% used offshore gambling websites for casino-type games and online slots, and 8% used SkyCity Online Casino operated out of NZ.
Why Assumptions Proved Wrong
The latest ACMA study shows, interestingly, that those who predicted a sharp increase in online gambling during the shutdowns were not an accurate portrait of those types of habits.
Some assumed that Aussies would take their government stimulus checks and gamble the money out of hopelessness or desperation. Others thought boredom would lead to an overwhelming surge in “harmful” gambling habits.
In fact, what ACMA found was that Aussies were more particular with their money and didn’t take up any new habits in huge numbers.
Perhaps, the trends in online gambling connect more often with entertainment choices in booming economies, not in times like these.
The study also shows the trend toward internet dependence continually growing. If Australia wants to keep up with trends and regulate as much of the internet as possible, lawmakers should consider online gambling. This form of entertainment is going to remain popular as Aussies want the convenience and gambling limits enabled by the online gambling sphere.