Anu Cgr Study Says Aussies Gambled Less In Pandemic

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic spurred studies to examine gambling effects on people in a variety of situations. The impact of the shutdowns and the lifestyle changes, the isolation and the risks were topics that researchers will be analyzing for years to come.

The Australian National University Centre for Gambling Research, part of the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, took an unsurprising interest on the impact of the pandemic on gambling. And in its most recent publication on the subject, they discovered that Aussies gambled significantly less during the pandemic. That meant that gambling harm risk decreased but so did overall life satisfaction.

Gambling During the Covid-19 Pandemic

The Centre for Gambling Research (CGR) consistently conducts research into various gambling disciplines. Some of the topics for research include gambling policy and programs and their effectiveness, social and economic impacts of gambling, impacts on public health, and gambling impacts on diverse and vulnerable populations.

The results then lead to academic debate and policy discussions.

Professor Nicholas Biddle took the lead in the most recent study, the results of which he released on December 15, 2020. His goal was to examine gambling activity and risk levels during the pandemic.

Specifically, Biddle wanted to analyze the period between April 2019 and May 2020, the latter months shining a light on changes due to the pandemic that began to affect Australia in February and March.

The overall results showed a significant decline in the number of Aussies – both male and female – who said they gambled in the previous 12 months. Those aged 35-45 displayed the largest decline of all age groups. The decreases pertained to raffle tickets and lottery games, as well as to pokies and gaming machines.

Unsurprisingly, at-risk gambling diminished alongside the other decreases. The numbers also showed an interesting relationship between gambling and life satisfaction.

Survey Participants

The research for this most recent CGR study took information from May and November ANU polls conducted in 2020 and compared it to that from the previous year. The 2020 information came from thousands of respondents 18 years of age and older across all Australian territories.

Biddle focused on survey answers from April 2019, May 2020, and November 2020. The three sets of data provided information from various parts of the pre-pandemic and pandemic periods.

It’s important to nose that nearly 95% of the people who completed the May 2020 survey also participated in the November 2020 survey.

Gambling Prevalence

The most notable figure in the study was the 52.9% decline in the number of Aussies who said they gambled in the past 12 months. That drop happened between April 2019 and May 2020. And when those same responders estimated their gambling pre-pandemic to the first few months of the pandemic, 13% fewer gambled in the beginning of the pandemic as opposed to before it.

Of course, one can attribute some of the gambling decrease to the lack of access to land-based gambling options like casinos, pubs, and video gaming terminal locations. The shutdowns cut off much of that access. In addition, there was a distinct uncertainty regarding people’s finances – many people laid off or newly unemployed – that likely prompted people to cut down on entertainment spending.

When Biddle broke down the gambling prevalence by demographics, these were some of the results:

  • Males down 10.7% from April 2019 to May 2020, then up 7.4% to November 2020
  • Females down 12.1% from April 2019 to May 2020, then up 1% to November 2020
  • 18-24-year-olds down 8.1% from April 2019 to May 2020, then up 8.6% to Nov 2020
  • 25-34-year-olds down 11.2% from April 2019 to May 2020, then up 2% to Nov 2020
  • 35-44-year-olds down 22.1% from April 2019 to May 2020, then up 7.8% to Nov 2020
  • 45-54-year-olds down 13.7% from April 2019 to May 2020, then up 5.7% to Nov 2020
  • 55-64-year-olds down 12.8% from April 2019 to May 2020, then up 5.4% to Nov 2020
  • 65-74-year-olds down 8.1% from April 2019 to May 2020, then up 5.2% to Nov 2020
  • 75+-year-olds down 9.4% from April 2019 to May 2020, then up 6.8% to Nov 2020

By territory, the most significant change was in ACT, per these figures:

  • NSW: down 12.3% from April 2019 to May 2020, then up 1.8% to Nov 2020
  • Victoria: down 13.3% from April 2019 to May 2020, then up 2.2% to Nov 2020
  • Queensland: down 10% from April 2019 to May 2020, then up 8.6% to Nov 2020
  • South Aus: down 5.5% from April 2019 to May 2020, then up 3.5% to Nov 2020
  • Western Aus: down 10.3% from April 2019 to May 2020, then up 5% to Nov 2020
  • Tasmania: up 0.7% from April 2019 to May 2020 and up another 10.3% to Nov 2020
  • NT: down 19.6% from April 2019 to May 2020 and down another 3.8% to Nov 2020
  • ACT: down 34.7% from April 2019 to May 2020, then up 19.9% to Nov 2020

Types of Gambling

To break down gambling prevalence by the various types of gambling, it required researchers to put gambling in 11 categories.

The most drastic changes were, obviously, in games that have no online component, such as pokies and machines at land-based venues. There were also notable changes for table games at casinos. The sports betting and race betting numbers changed so drastically because of the shutdown of all of those games during the first months of the pandemic.

As mentioned, the total gambling numbers dropped 15% from April 2019 (65.9%) to May 2020 (52.9%) and rose only 5.8% to November 2020 (58.7%). The breakdown was:

  • Pokies, gaming machines at a venue: down 8.1% to May 2020, then up 0.3% to Nov 2020
  • Race betting: down 5.8% to May 2020, then up 4.9% to Nov 2020
  • Instant scratchies: down 4.1% to May 2020, then up 1.6% to Nov 2020
  • Lottery games: down 8.6% to May 2020, then up 4.3% to Nov 2020
  • Keno: down 3.3% to May 2020, then up 0.7% to Nov 2020
  • Table games in a casino: down 2.7% to May 2020, then up 1.1% to Nov 2020
  • Bingo or housie: down 1.6% to May 2020, no change to Nov 2020
  • Sports or event betting: down 3% to May 2020, then up 0.9% to Nov 2020
  • Informal games like mahjong: down 1.2% to May 2020, then up 0.1% to Nov 2020
  • Raffle tickets: down 13.7% to May 2020, up 1.5% to Nov 2020
  • Online pokies and casino games: down 0.1% May 2020 and down another 0.6% to Nov 2020

Gambling Harm or Problem Gambling

Researchers in April 2019 and November 2020 asked nine questions from the industry-respected tool used around the world, the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI). Of the three categories of questions – sometimes, most of the time, and almost always – this survey put responses into a category of “at least some of the time.”

All of the following percentages are from April 2019 to November 2020:

  • Bet more than you could afford to lose: down 1.9% to 4.1%
  • Needed to gamble big for excitement: down 2% to 2.7%
  • Returned to try to chase losses: down 2.2% to 3.6%
  • Borrowed money or sold things to gamble: down 0.5% to 1.2%
  • Felt you might have a gambling problem: down 0.9% to 3.2%
  • Received criticism from others about gambling habits: down 0.3% to 2.2%
  • Felt guilty about gambling: down 2.3% to 6.9%
  • Caused health problems, including stress: down 0.8% to 2.5%
  • Caused financial problems: down 0.8% to 2%

Anyone is welcome to take the PGSI to gauge their own propensity for gambling harm. Most gambling regulators offer the test on their own websites, but Gambling Help Online makes it easily accessible.

Gambling and Life Satisfaction

One of the last segments of the report is the connection between gambling, which many people do as a form of entertainment, and happiness or satisfaction. Overall, Aussies are not as satisfied with their levels of gambling risks in November 2020 as they were in October 2019, but people were happier in November then in January of last year.

Obviously, those with gambling problems in the 12 months before the survey date had less life satisfaction with gambling in mind. However, people who gambled during the pandemic had a more positive life satisfaction rate than those who did not gamble.


Rose Varrelli avatar
Rose Varrelli
Senior Casino & News Writer

Hi there! I’m Rose, and with nine years behind me in the iGaming industry, I craft engaging narratives at CasinoAus. My education in Communication across Europe has sharpened my skills in fintech, casino legislation, and digital marketing. Backed by a strong foundation in SEO, storytelling, and cross-cultural communication, I’m passionate about creating content that resonates globally and educates our audience.

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