Look who’s raking in the money

The pandemic sent us in many positive directions to combat isolation, but it also led to a spike in online gambling.

Financial reports released by popular online betting companies show they have been raking it in, the ABC reports.

Tabcorp’s digital wagering turnover grew by 3.8 per cent in the 2019–20 financial year to $7.1 billion.

Sportsbet’s parent company, Flutter Entertainment, reported that its Australian operating profits were close to $200 million in the six months to 30 June, with online net revenue up 45 per cent in the first half of the year.

Ladbrokes parent company, GVC Holdings, also recorded a 43 per cent lift in profits over the same period.

Who is driving the surge? A study released by the Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC) showed that men aged 18 to 34 made up 79 per cent of new account holders and that group increased its median monthly spend from $687 to $1075. The research also showed that the median amount gambled by men and women older than 34 had dropped.

Bank Australia has announced it is joining a growing list of banks that block gambling on credit products. It has written to its customers telling them that gambling transactions will not be permitted on its credit cards from 1 December.

The move will see Bank Australia join a number of Australian banks, including Macquarie Bank, Suncorp, Bank of Queensland and CUA, and international banks such as American Express and Citibank, in gambling restrictions.

Other banks including Westpac and Commonwealth Bank allow customers to opt in to a personal gambling ban.

A Bank Australia spokesperson said the decision was overwhelmingly supported by its customers and explained the move would stop its credit products being use to gamble on poker machines, online, casinos, government lotteries and horse and dog racing.

Customers would still be able to gamble with Bank Australia debit cards.

The credit block relies on information provided by merchants, including transaction codes that classify a purchase as gambling-related, Business Insider explained.

AGRC researcher Dr Rebecca Jenkinson said isolation, boredom and betting promotions were the key reasons young men gave when explaining their increased gambling spend during the pandemic.

“They reported being heavily exposed to ads and promotions, and that was often a motivation for them to gamble,” she said, adding that about 78 per cent now gambled online as opposed to 62 per cent before the pandemic.

“I don’t think we’ll see a decrease back to pre-COVID levels any time soon,” she said.

“This is still a real time of uncertainty for a lot of people. A lot of people have lost jobs and some of the motivations for online gambling, particularly among young men in his sample, haven’t gone away.”

Key findings of the AGRC report:

  • Almost one in three of the 2000 participants surveyed in June and July signed up for a new online betting account during COVID-19, and one in 20 started gambling online.
  • Even with limited access to venues, overall, participants gambled more often during COVID-19. The proportion who gambled four or more times a week increased from 23 per cent to 32 per cent.
  • Horse racing, sports betting, greyhound racing and lotto were the main products that participants gambled on before and during COVID-19.
  • 79 per cent of participants were classified as being at risk of, or already experiencing, gambling-related harm.

The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald reported earlier in the year that women who received the government’s first $750 stimulus payment spent up big on food, household bills and other essentials. Male recipients spent more heavily on video games, apps, music, car-related expenses, alcohol, taxis and insurance.

If you or anyone you know needs help:

Lifeline on 13 11 14

Gambling Help Online on 1800 858 858

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36

Do you know anyone who has turned to online gambling to keep themselves ‘entertained’ during the pandemic?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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