Italy’s land-based gamblers only ‘minimally’ moved online during lockdown


Italy’s land-based gamblers didn’t report any significant increase in online activity during the country’s lengthy pandemic lockdown period, according to a new study.

The study by the Pisan Clinical Physiology Institute of the National Research Council queried nearly 4k individuals in a six-week period spanning April-May regarding their gambling activity during the country’s prolonged COVID-19 lockdown, during which most land-based venues were forced to temporarily shut their doors.

Overall, just 3.6% of respondents said they’d gambled at a land-based venue during the period in question, mainly via lottery products at tobacconists, while 3.7% reported engaging in some form of online gambling. Of those who’d engaged in land-based gambling over the past 12 months, 12% continued to gamble via land while 10.3% gambled online.

Over one-third (35.4%) of respondents decreased their physical play during the lockdown and 22.8% halted land-based gambling altogether, while an enterprising 13.9% somehow increased their activity. Scratch cards were the overwhelming favorite activity, enjoyed by 72.5% of land-based gamblers.

Just over one-third (33.8%) of respondents reported increasing their online gambling activity, while 28.8% reported no change and 11.3% took up online play for the first time after their land-based options dried up. The most popular forms of online play were poker, slots and sports betting.

Online gamblers reported greater frequency of gambling, with 30.5% playing on a daily basis versus 8.5% of land-based gamblers. Online gamblers also spent more during the lockdown, with 11% spending between €200-€500 and 14.6% spending over €500. Only 2.6% of retail gamblers spent between €200-€500 while 3.9% spent over €500.

Males made up a larger share of online gamblers (78.6%) than retail gamblers (62.6%) while online gamblers skewed younger (25-34) compared to retail (45-54).

Researcher Sabrina Molinaro concluded that regular land-based gamblers “have only minimally switched to online gambling and the two populations of on-site and online players remain distinct.” The researchers are conducting a follow-up survey this month to see if the initial trends continue.

Italy’s retail gambling operators finally began reopening this month under strict social distancing measures, including mandatory face-masks and temperature checks for customers. All Italian betting operators now face an additional 0.5% turnover tax intended to offer financial relief to the country’s sports bodies. Despite industry protests, the tax is scheduled to last through the end of 2021.