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More Australians gambled online in 2021

Recent findings from the ACMA consumer survey have established that more Australians are now wagering online than ever before. The Australian Media and Communications Authority produced a report in February 2022 that highlighted that after years of relatively stable levels of participation in previous years, this increased sharply in 2021.

Eleven per cent of Australian adults reported that they had placed at least one online wager in the six months preceding June 2021. This was up from eight per cent in June 2020. The figure does not include lotteries. The report also looked into the frequency of online gambling in Australia.  The findings are that among participating adults, thirty-five per cent gambled one or more times a week on average and just over half of those asked said they only did it occasionally. This breaks down to ten per cent who placed a bet online monthly and forty-four per cent who were less frequent participants than this.

The survey was also interested to find out how people’s online gambling habits had been affected by the pandemic and the public health restrictions that had been enforced. They were asked how frequently they had gambled before the pandemic and during the period when there were the strictest restrictions in their area. The vast majority of online gamblers (seventy-seven per cent) reported the same frequency. A small, but significant cohort (sixteen per cent) indicated that they were placing bets online more frequently in June 2021 than they had been before the pandemic.

The growth in online gambling that was observed in the survey seems to have been primarily driven by the resurgence of sports betting. This was as a result of there being more live sports matches once the restrictions around staging live sports events were lifted. In the six months leading up to June 2021, sports betting was recorded as the most popular form of wagering. Sports betting (e.g., betting on football) accounted for fifty-seven per cent of all bets placed with horse and dog racing taking fifty-five per cent of the online gambling purse. The rest of this market is people placing bets on e-sports, fantasy games, and non-sporting events such as elections.

Men are twice as likely as women to place a bet online. Of those surveyed twelve per cent of men said they had placed an online wager compared to five per cent of women.

The results of the survey are broadly in line with what is happening on a global scale. Online betting has become increasingly popular throughout the world with platforms are offering a diverse range of betting options and games. The UK is considered as a leading light in the regulated online gambling market and its success there has led to many other countries opening up to legalised gambling. Having a regulated market allows taxes to be levied on gambling companies and for structures to be put in place that encourage safe gambling. In addition, it is easier to enact anti-money laundering rules in a legalized market.

For years countries like Sweden utilised the allure of winning a pot of money to raise revenues for the state and its casinos were all state owned. This has changed in recent years as the country has seen a relaxation in its gambling laws. The Netherlands is another European country that now operates a regulated online gambling market. The Government there recognised that people were accessing offshore platforms to place bets, but that the treasury was not benefitting from revenues nor customers from safeguards. The legalised market there opened in October 2021 and millions of accounts have been opened on the newly regulated platforms. America has also seen a revolution in its attitudes to gambling. Following a ruling by the Supreme Court in 2018, which struck down a federal law that banned commercial sports betting in most states, individual states now make their own gambling laws. The most recent state to open a regulated online sports betting market is New York which joins over thirty states that had already done so.

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