1. In this study, many individuals in Australia decreased their gambling activity when there were venue-based gambling restrictions due to COVID-19.
2. However, some individuals who engaged in moderate-risk gambling were more likely to report increased gambling frequency.
Evidence Rating Level: 3 (Average)
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many gambling venues were ordered to close to reduce spread of the virus. In Australia, in-person gambling still accounts for the majority of the country’s gambling, despite increases in online gambling over the past several years. Thus, the COVID-19 restrictions led to an unexpected decrease in access to gambling. Thus far, the influence of these restrictions on gambling patterns have not been explored, which this study sought to address.
This study administered an online survey to Australian adult participants (18+ years old) who had gambled at least once in the last 12 months to ask participants about their gambling habits (n = 769 respondents). A convenience sample was obtained by posting notices on various websites and through email. Participants were excluded if they returned incomplete responses to any questions. Measured variables included gambling frequency, gambling expenditure, and psychological distress (measured through the K6 screening tool).
From the analyses, participants reported a significant median reduction in gambling during the shutdown period, which was expected given lack of access. Interestingly, rates of online gambling did not increase for most individuals, indicating some moderation of behavior. However, approximately 14% of participants reported an increased rate of gambling. Additionally, psychological distress was not associated with amount of gambling. This study did have several limitations, such as its small sample size and its use of a convenience sample. Despite these limitations, this study furthered our understanding of gambling patterns during COVID-19.
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