Australian online gaming has seen activity rocket by two-thirds since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, though contrary to anti-gambling activists beliefs, it may not be such a major cause for concern.
Statistics published weekly by AlphaBeta economic analysts and Illion credit office show online gambling transactions increased by 67 percent in the week ending March 29 compared to a ‘average’ week. This was the highest growth of the 18 groups from the 250k Aussies sample studied.
Whilst essential supermarkets and pharmacies also enjoyed growth, alcohol and tobacco (+ 33%), online retail & subscription services (+ 61%), food delivery (+ 63%) and home improvement (+ 64%) were the biggest gainers next to gambling.
The week in particular was the first since the Australian government unveiled its economic stimulus plan, and experienced a 10-point rise in overall discretionary spending (which remains 16 percent below normal).
It’s worth noting that this online boom came in the week when virtually all land-based gambling options, including casinos, racetracks, betting offices, and video poker machines (pokies) were shut down in thousands of pubs and clubs, began.
The online boom seems to be nothing more than transferred affections, just as the distribution of food has soared while restaurants & fast food (-13 percent) and cafés (-42 percent) have dropped.
Moreover, while some inexperienced online gamblers can actually get carried away at first, several studies in vastly different markets have shown that the introduction of new gambling options only leads to a short-term increase in problem gambling behaviour, after which customers adjust to the new reality and the levels return to their baseline.
Clearly it is up to the authorised online sports betting operators in Australia to treat new customers with a degree of care and not to bombard them with incentive offers. Operators will also understand that this activity surge is likely to be extremely short-lived.