Gambling rates in Australia dropped off significantly during the height of COVID-19 restrictions, before increasing again over the past six months, according to new research from The Australian National University (ANU).

Lead researcher Professor Nicholas Biddle says the COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost all aspects of life in Australia – and gambling is no exception.

“One the one hand, the lockdown severely restricted the opportunity to gamble in certain venues,” Professor Biddle said.

“Sporting events that people were likely to gamble on were also disrupted. But on the other hand, as people spent more time at home the opportunity to participate in online gambling increased.”

The study shows between April 2019 and May 2020 there was a sharp decline in the number of Australians who said they had gambled in the previous 12 months.

“Across 11 types of gambling, around 53 per cent of Australians were estimated to have gambled when asked at the start of the pandemic, compared to the pre-pandemic rate of 65.9 per cent,” Professor Biddle said.

“By November, gambling rates had increased slightly to 58.7 per cent – still significantly lower than the 12 months leading up to April 2019.”

According to the researchers, the decline in gambling rates was relatively consistent for males and females, but there were much a larger decline in those aged 35-45 when compared to other age groups.

“We saw the biggest relative decline in informal games like cards, mah-jong and snooker, as well as bingo and other table games,” Professor Biddle 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.”

The research found that roughly 2.6 million fewer Australians gambled in the 12 months leading up to May 2020 than would have done if the April 2019 gambling prevalence levels continued into the COVID-19 pandemic. It is estimated that there were 2.7 million fewer adult Australians who bought raffle tickets, 1.7 million fewer adults who played a lottery game and 1.6 million fewer adults who played poker machines or gaming machines at a venue.

Perhaps most importantly, according to Professor Biddle, was that there was also a decline in at-risk gambling observed over the period.

“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.”

The paper is based on surveys in May and November 2020, which collected information from 3,219 and 3,029 respondents aged 18 years and over across all eight states and territories in Australia.

You may also like

Article Card Image

Democracy Sausage: Saving the Australian dream

Mark and Marija discuss Scott Morrison's exit from politics, before housing affordability campaigner Maiy Azize joins us to propose solutions to Australia's housing crisis.

Article Card Image

The government is well behind on Closing the Gap. This is why we needed a Voice to Parliament

Another year, and another Closing the Gap report comes before the parliament and the Australian people. This year,…

Article Card Image

Democracy Sausage: Do unto others

Paul Pickering joins us to break down what can be learnt from the leadership merry-go-round of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison years.

Subscribe to ANU Reporter

Anu Logo

+61 2 6125 5111

The Australian National University, Canberra

CRICOS Provider: 00120C

ABN: 52 234 063 906

EDX Logo
Group of eight Australia Logo