The shift from retail to online betting is continuing in Australia, according to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
Research from the Authority found that 11% of Australians reported participating in online gambling during the previous six months, an increase on the figure of 8% in 2020.
Online sports betting in particular has proven popular among Australian gamblers, with 8% of respondents stating that they had wagered on sports or racing in the six months prior to the research, whilst 5% did so the previous year.
Of the most popular betting products, sports was the most widely wagered at 57%, closely followed by racing at 55%. Lesser markets included esports (6%), non-sporting events such as elections (5%), and fantasy sports (3%).
The ACMA has attributed this online shift to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on gambling habits, highlighting that 16% of Australian online bettors reported an increase in their gambling frequency prior to COVID-19.
However, the Authority has also asserted that the frequency of online gambling ‘did not change significantly’ during pre-June 2021 lockdowns, as there was ‘negligible difference in reported gambling rates’ during the most severe period of restrictions.
In Victoria, which imposed the heaviest lockdown measures of the Australian states, there was no difference in reported gambling frequency when compared with residents of other locations.
“Our research suggests that the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia may have had some impact on participation in online gambling,” the ACMA stated.
“Small but notable rises in both the prevalence and frequency of online gambling in 2021 may have been brought about by the increasing adoption of digital wagering services, along with the availability of expanded gambling features and increased betting advertising over this period.
“In addition, as Australian sporting codes returned to a more ‘normal’ schedule after the disruptions of 2020, online sports betting has bounced back and attracted new participants.”
Lastly, the Authority also conducted research into black market gambling activity, the ACMA found that just 5% of Australians had reported using offshore services in the six months before June 2021.
This small minority were primarily those in younger demographics or on lower incomes according to the data. Despite this, the ACMA maintains that it will continue its efforts towards blocking any illegal offshore betting operators targeting Australian consumers.
“New data on the prevalence of in-play and offshore betting will allow the ACMA to report trends in consumer behaviour in these areas in future years,” the regulator concluded.