Aussies have the reputation of being the world’s worst gamblers as they end up spending more money on betting than any other country. They raised the bar even higher in September 2021by placing more money into their online casino and sports betting accounts last month, than they have in a long time.
This finding was published AlphaBeta and illion, two analytics companies that focus on consumer spending. The companies revealed real-time data that indicates a spike in online gambling activities during the latest lockdown periods in Victoria and New South Wales (NSW).
The amount of money wagered by punters in that time was almost three times higher than the cash they spent on online gambling, on average, before the COVID-19 lockdowns in early 2020. It is also higher than the peaks seen amidst the several lockdowns in 2020.
According to the data collected by AlphaBeta and illion, the average expenditure on gambling among Australians was a base index of 100 per week before the lockdowns.
In the week that ended on September 19, 2021, the base index skyrocketed to 384.4. This eclipses the previous peak seen during the 2020 lockdowns of 298.3, which was recorded in November 2020.
The companies’ data did not include any breakdowns on the types of gambling or the online gambling verticals that showed the highest levels of growth.
Even though there was no specific breakdown on the different types of online gambling, illion CEO commented that the spike probably happened due to the fact that most casinos in NSW and Victoria were closed in June, leaving Australians with no other form of entertainment other than Australian no deposit casinos.
Closure of Brick-and-Mortar Venues Connected to Surge
Michael Illion, the CEO of illion, observed that the likeliest reason for the recent explosion of online gambling is the recent closure of brick-and-mortar venues in Victoria and NSW.
In June 2021, some parts of Australia reinstituted lockdowns on casinos, pubs, and clubs to quell the spread of the more contagious Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.
The latest casino to be closed down due to public health concerns is the Casino Canberra, located in the Australian Capital Territory. It is set to re-open after seven days.
The limited array of gambling opportunities for the average Australian has dwindled, forcing many of them to migrate their activities online.
Andrew Charlton is the managing director of Accenture, AlphaBeta’s parent company. According to Charlton, it would seem that the surge in online gambling is due to the influx of gamblers who have mostly kept their activities offline before that point.
Australia has a sizable population of casual gamblers who enjoy a penny slot while out at the pub or a club. This kind of punter rarely seeks out gambling but gravitates to venues where they can place a wager easily.
Because the places these punters typically go to have been closed down, many of them have started to make the switch to online casinos, poker rooms, and bookmakers.
In addition to the action, they are also less exposed to COVID-19, which might also sway them toward online gambling.
Charlton also noted that many Aussies are bored staying at home. With all the extra cash they have on hand—whether from their savings or through welfare benefits during the pandemic—it is no wonder that many are enthralled by the convenience of gambling online.
Australian Online Gambling Rules Still Up in the Air
It remains to be seen whether the data provided by AlphaBeta and illium will be enough to convince the government to lift the lockdown measures imposed on casinos, pubs, and clubs.
Governments and regulators will also have to consider whether the data is worthy of alarm. While the online gambling surge is remarkable, it is still an open question whether the trends indicate a potential problem gambling issue.
Australia currently allows lotteries and sports betting but has yet to legalize poker and online casino games.
The recent surge in online gambling may lead Australian policymakers to loosen up its restrictions on brick-and-mortar casinos, pubs, clubs, and other entertainment venues. On the other hand, it could persuade them to take an even tighter rein on the current options Australian gamblers have.
Australia’s ban on poker and online casino games has not made a dent, both on the rapacious appetite of Aussies for betting or on the continual entry of new online casinos to feed that demand.
Industry experts and observers believe that, whichever way government regulators go, it is essential to bring online gambling to light and legalize it. Allowing online casinos and bookmakers to operate in a gray market only leads to further confusion for Australian punters. Moreover, because gray market casinos are not subject to the strict rules imposed by Australian regulators, their players may also be exposed to greater risks of fraud or other illegal activities.
Some industry watchers have also cautioned that, if the government does not take positive steps toward legalizing online casinos and poker games on top of its efforts to rein in gray-market venues, it could lead some Aussies to turn to more illicit means of wagering.