UKGC highlights concerns on increased machine interactions post-lockdown 

Tracking the performance of all licensed gambling verticals, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has revealed that July saw a ‘slight month-on-month decrease’ in the amount spent by consumers on online gambling (including online slots). 

The UKGC has published further data on gambling consumer habits and operator engagements registered across land-based and digital verticals for the period of May-to-July 2020.

“Gambling behaviours continue to evolve as the country continues to move out of full lockdown into the autumn months but still provide justification for the Commission’s updated guidance to operators,” the Commission detailed in its statement.

Between June and July, the UKGC stated that GGY across all online gambling verticals decreased by 4%, representing the first month-on-month fall since April.

Despite the decrease, the UKGC maintained that figures remain ‘above pre-covid levels’, driven by a ‘pent-up demand for sports betting’, which saw June figures buoyed by the reopening of sports betting markets.

 The commission highlighted that ‘high levels of GGY’ for online sportsbooks have continued into July, although GGY figures have decreased slightly (-4%) from its June peak.

Sportsbook figures showed the number of bets (up by 5% since June) and the number of active players (up by 4% since June) have both increased slightly – consistent with its observation of ‘pent-up demand’ for the return of sports.

Monitoring online casino engagements, the UKGC recorded a 2% decline in online slots GGY to £162 million between June and July.

During the period, the UKGC stated that online slot sessions lasting longer than an hour decreased by 2%, however total consumer interactions recorded by operators rose by 2%. 

The UKGC noted: “This increase inactive players and a slight decrease in overall GGY means again during July there has been a slight decrease in the average loss per player. Although the av. loss figure for slots is still meaningfully higher than any other online gambling product (£66 for slots versus £50 for real event betting and £37 for casino during July)” 

The period saw UK licensed retail bookmakers reopen their betting estates from 15th June. Though the Commission collected retail data from its largest LBOs, it underlined that ‘absolute values’ could not be directly comparable due to phased openings, local restrictions and individual corporate strategies to reopening retail units.   

The UKGC, therefore, focused its retail analysis on ‘share of spend across available shop products’ over generating absolute values on retail performance – “data from subsequent months will be needed to help to build a more robust set of comparative data, post premises reopening.

At a retail level, the UKGC observed that ‘the product mix has shifted more towards machines’ – with its indicators noting that the ‘spend, length and proportion per session in excess of an hour had all increased noticeably since reopening’. 

Machine engagements saw ‘GGY per session in June increase by 37% from March 2020 to a level of £11.98 in June. While this decreased to £10.53 in July, it remains higher than the pre-lockdown figure of £8.72’.

Meanwhile, over-the-counter (OTC) consumer interactions in June decreased by 3%, changing the revenue make-up of retail which saw OTC contribute GGY of 30% during June whilst machines GGY increased from 48% to 57% in the same period.  

The UKGC highlighted the above change as a concern in its ‘safer gambling indicators’ notice, adding: “As retail reflects new customer behaviour we could be seeing a mix of both displacement of activity from OTC to machines with consumers possibly wanting to limit contact with other individuals, and the return of only the most engaged individuals.”

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