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Three ways COVID-19 has impacted gambling behavior

Published: December 28, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected life as we know it. Work, school, traveling, and social life all look different today than they did a year ago, including gambling.

That’s why at this year’s National Conference on Gambling Addiction & Problem Gambling, attendees learned about how the pandemic has impacted gambling behavior. Alex Price, Ph.D., Senior Researcher at the Center for Advancement of Best Practices and The Responsible Gambling Council, spoke on his research on the issue.

His research looked at online gambling and public health trends in Ontario, Canada, during the first pandemic lockdown in March 2020. Dr. Price also looked at gambling trends in the United States and other areas. 

Here are some highlights of some of the findings he shared with attendees:

  • Shift to online gambling
    • In a study of 424 U.S. gamblers over 18, 15% of gamblers who did not gamble online before the pandemic moved to online gambling. Among those gamblers, alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, video gaming, porn, and social casino usage also increased.
    • People were betting more money with online gambling. According to an Australian study, men increased their median monthly gambling expenditure from $687 to $1,075. 
    • Online gamblers were more likely to be classified by mental health professionals as moderate to high-risk gamblers.
  • Increased rates of poor mental health
    • Dr. Price’s research associated increased gambling during the pandemic with gambling problems and increased alcohol consumption.
    • His research showed increased anxiety, depression, addictive behaviors, and substance use associated with gambling.
    • About 12% experienced moderately severe to severe depression.
    • Non-online gamblers were more likely to have none to mild anxiety.
  • Financial impacts
    • 25% indicated that they either lost their employment or had their hours reduced due to the pandemic.
    • 50% indicated that their household income was negatively affected by the pandemic to some degree.

While Dr. Price’s research is still underway, he said that proper treatment is key to unhealthy online gambling behaviors. If you or someone you know has an online gambling problem, know that recovery is possible. Help is always available at

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