Australian online gambling spending still well above pre-pandemic levels


Australians continue to spend more money gambling online during their COVID-19 lockdown, while searches for online forbidden fruit soared at the height of the pandemic.

The most recent consumer spending figures from economic analysts AlphaBeta and credit bureau Illion show overall spending in the week ending June 1 down only 2% from ‘normal’ levels, thanks in part to the easing of lockdown restrictions as Australia’s COVID-19 infection curve flattens.

Spending in some categories – gyms, pubs, public transport, travel, etc. – are still well below normal while spending is higher in department stores (+21%), home improvement (+30%), apps, games & music (+30%), health services (+35%), alcohol & tobacco (+39%), furniture & office (+74%) and food delivery (248%).

Online gambling scored second highest with spending up 110% from normal, a much higher rate than the 60% rise the data showed in the week ending April 19. But it’s worth noting that some of Australia’s major sports leagues have since resumed play, offering Aussie punters a greater variety of online wagering options (and far more familiar ones than Russian ping-pong).

A National Australia Bank (NAB) transaction analysis for the four weeks ending June 6 shows gambling spending up 62.7% from the same period last year, a comparatively golden age when punters had far more discretionary spending options from which to choose. Also, the above figure represented a 4% decline from the last week prior to the four-week period under review.

Australia’s pandemic lockdown eliminated the possibility of heading down to the local pub, club or casino and indulging in the nation’s most popular gambling pastime: video poker machines, aka pokies. At the time, it was thought all land-based gaming venues might stay shut for ‘at least six months.’

This week, the Sydney Morning Herald published web search data from analytics firm SEMrush which showed searches for ‘online pokies’ more than tripled from February to April, following the closure of all gaming venues. Searches for ‘online casino Australia real money’ rose 540% while ‘Australia online casino reviews’ queries were up tenfold.

Australia’s gambling laws limit online activity to sports betting, rendering all online casino play out of bounds. Australia’s telecom watchdog has warned punters that some sketchier internationally licensed online casinos can be malware factories yet SEMrush said Aussie visits to the Curacao-licensed JokaRoom doubled from February to April.

Speaking of, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) added 10 new rogues to its online casino blacklist last month, after receiving “over 30” complaints. This is the third time the ACMA has flexed its domain-blocking muscles since last November.

The new additions to the ACMA’s Hall of Shame are: Grand Fortune Casino; Raging Bull Casino; True Blue Casino; Free Spin; Two Up Casino; BoVegas; Cherry Gold Casino; Slots Empire; Red Dog Casino and Wild Joker.