European online sports bettors decreased online casino play during COVID-19


Online sports bettors not only spent less money wagering during the COVID-19 pandemic, they also decreased their online casino spending, upending a prevailing narrative of this period.

A new study of an unspecified “large European online gambling operator” with customers in Finland, Germany, Norway and Sweden concluded that “the frequency of wagering upon online casino games by online sports bettors before COVID-19-related lockdown significantly decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic period.”

The unnamed operator’s customer data, which covered online sports betting and casino activity between January 1 to April 30, was analyzed by Michael Auer of German data science firm Neccton, Doris Malischnig of the Office of Addiction and Drug Policy of Vienna, and Mark D. Griffiths of University of Nottingham’s International Gaming Research Unit.  

The data involved 5,396 bettors, around 70% of whom also played online casino games, then the data on these hybrid gamblers was split into two sets: the year through March 7 – roughly corresponding to the start of social isolation measures – and the subsequent period through April 20.

Among bettors who placed a wager in at least five calendar weeks during the initial period, 76% also played online casino games during this period. This number fell to 60% after March 7. Of those who wagered in at least six calendar weeks, 77% also played online casino games before March 7, but only 62% played the games after March 7.

The effect was less pronounced but nonetheless present among more frequent bettors, with those who wagered in at least 10 calendar weeks reporting 79% online casino participation prior to March 7 and 76% afterward.

Moreover, when the bettors were divided into 10 distinct groups based on the size of their online casino bets, there was a “statistically significant reduction” among all 10 groups after March 7.

The authors cautioned that the limitations of the data doesn’t mean that customers based outside the four geographic markets cited above all behaved accordingly. The authors also can’t guarantee that the bettors in the study didn’t engage in more frequent online casino activity with operators other than the one supplying the data.

That said, the authors concluded that there was, at least in terms of this one operator, “no conversion of money spent from sports betting to online casino” during the lockdown. The findings also suggest that “speculations that individuals may spend more time and money gambling online as a consequence of being confined in their house for long periods of time appear unfounded.”

Studies of Danish and Swedish player spending have arrived at similar conclusions, although online search criteria appears to show elevated interest in at least checking out online casino sites. Still, the study pokes further holes in nanny-state governments’ efforts to rein in activity that may not actually exist.

Wednesday witnessed the launch of yet another study, this one by the Universities of Stirling and Glasgow, into how the COVID-19 lockdown has impacted gambling behavior among sports bettors and young people. However, the jury won’t be back on this study for another 18 months, by which time we should be well into COVID-19’s third or fourth phase and most of us might be too dead to care.