London: Gamblers were more than six times more likely to gamble online compared to before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new research.
The study, led by the University of Bristol in the UK, showed while gambling was less frequent during lockdown, partly due to betting shops being closed, online gambling, including poker, bingo, and casino games, grew six-fold.
Respondents who gambled occasionally were still found to be more than twice as likely than before to gamble online. Those who struggled financially before the pandemic were more likely to report gambling during lockdown.
“This study provides unique real time insights into how people’s attitudes and gambling behaviour changed during lockdown, when everyone was stuck inside and unable to participate in most social activities,a said lead author Alan Emond, Professor at the varsity’s Medical School.
“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,” Emond added.
For the study, published in the Journal of Gambling Studies, more than 2,600 adults responded. Results revealed that during lockdown men were three times more likely than women to gamble regularly, defined as more than once a week.A
Drinking heavily, defined as more than six units in a session (equivalent to more than three pints of beer) at least once a week, was strongly linked to regular gambling among men and women. These trends are likely to be much greater in reality, as the majority (70 per cent) of respondents to the surveys in lockdown were women.
“The strong link between binge drinking and regular gambling is of particular concern, as they are both addictive behaviours 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 minimise gambling harms,” Emond said.