Spending on online slot machines didn’t go up 25% in lockdown

16th Jul 2020

Claim

Betting on online slot machines has increased by 25% during lockdown.

Conclusion

Incorrect. Betting on online slot machines fell during the lockdown but the number of players increased 25% between March 2019 and March 2020.

“Shocking figures from regulator the Gambling Commission reveal that betting on online slot machines has increased by 25% during lockdown.”

HuffPost, 14 July 2020  

An article on the HuffPost website reports on changes in gambling behaviours during the coronavirus lockdown.

The headline claim is that Britons lost £228 million in one month on online slot machines, use of which has increased 25% during lockdown. 

However online slot usage has, by most measures, fallen during the lockdown period. 

The latest figures from the Gambling Commission shows that the gross gambling yield (bets placed minus winnings paid out) from online slots fell from £187 million in March of this year to £169 million in April, before then bouncing back to £184 million in May. 

The UK entered lockdown on 23 March 2020, so the figures for that month are largely for the pre-lockdown period.

The Gambling Commission says these figures cover approximately 80% of the online gambling market.

The number of active players on online slots fell 2% between March and April and then a further 5% between April and May.

What the 25% rise relates to is the number of people playing online slots in March 2020 compared to a year earlier in March 2019. Over the past year the gross gambling yield from online slots has increased by 15%

It is not clear where HuffPost got the figure of £228 million from.

Other areas of online gambling have increased during the lockdown. The gross gambling yield from online poker was up £6 million, from “other gaming including casino” was up £20 million and from betting on eSports and virtual sports was up £3 million between March 2020 and May 2020. 

The Gambling Commission says: “We know from previous studies that engagement across a larger number of activities can correlate to higher levels of moderate-risk and problem gambling.” 

But in total, as HuffPost says: “The Gambling Commission found that overall, gambling was down during lockdown due to the loss of things like football.”