COVID-19 lockdowns saw a significant decrease in gambling rates across the country, particularly for those aged 35-45, according to new research from the Australian National University (ANU).
The study is based on surveys conducted in May and November this year, and shows that between April 2019 and May 2020, around 2.6 million fewer Australians reported gambling than would have done if the April 2019 gambling prevalence levels continued through into the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Across 11 types of gambling, around 53% of Australians were estimated to have gambled when asked at the start of the pandemic, compared to the pre-pandemic rate of 65.9%,” said the study’s lead researcher, Professor Nicholas Biddle.
Professor Biddle said while gaming venues were closed and sports schedules disrupted during the height of restrictions, other forms of gambling did not see an increase as a result.
The research shows gambling rates declined consistently for males and females, however, there was a much larger decline for people aged between 35 and 45 than any other age group.
“We saw the biggest relative decline in informal games like cards, mahjong and snooker, as well as bingo and other table games,” he said.
“The smallest decline was for things like online casino games, but there was no form of gambling that increased between April 2019 and May 2020.”
“By November, gambling rates had increased slightly to 58.7% – still significantly lower than the 12 months leading up to April 2019,” Professor Biddle said.
Gambling prevalence among young people has returned to its pre-pandemic levels, as well as for those over 75.
Professor Biddle said at-risk gambling was also down over the period and said this was an opportunity to ensure policy works to reduce harm from gambling.
“The policy aim in the post-pandemic period is to make sure that gambling harm doesn’t return to pre-pandemic levels as opportunities for gambling continue to return,” he said.
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