Lockdown’s impact on gambling

Mobile phone with sports betting website app in the screen

Credit: Daviles/GettyImages

One third of regular sports betters stopped betting completely during the UK’s first lockdown.

A new report studied the gambling behaviours of regular betters before and after the first UK lockdown from March to June 2020.

The work was led by researchers at the universities of Glasgow and Stirling, and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

A marked decrease in gambling

Dr Heather Wardle from the University of Glasgow said:

Unsurprisingly, our study found that, during the initial lockdown in March 2020, with the closure of gambling venues such as bookmakers, and a huge reduction in live sports, there was a marked decrease in sports gambling.

The study found that 17.3% of men and 16.5% of women started a new form of gambling during the same period.

Additionally, 31.3% of men and 30.3% of women increased their frequency of gambling on at least one activity. The study found those who started a new form, or increased the frequency of gambling during lockdown, are potentially vulnerable to gambling harms.

Dr Wardle said:

These findings are important and suggest that regulators and the industry should be looking closely at how behaviours are changing during national lockdowns, and doing more to protect people from harms.

New types of gambling activity

Professor Kate Hunt from the University of Stirling said:

Our study found that, among regular sports betters, restrictions in supply during lockdown generated changes in behaviour, including reductions in gambling for the majority, who did not appear to seek out other ways to gamble.

However, when examining online sports betting, a minority continued to bet as some horse races and sports were still available in other countries. Furthermore, some people also started gambling on new types of activity – including the lottery and virtual online sports – that they had not previously engaged in.

The findings, published in the journal Addictive Behaviours, will help inform the review of the Gambling Act 2005, currently being conducted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport.

Read the study (Science Direct website).

Last updated: 17 June 2022

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help improve our online products and services.