A new report reveals how the global COVID-19 pandemic impacted the behavior of gamblers in Ontario, Canada.
Ontario’s Responsible Gambling Council Releases Results from a New Study
The Responsible Gambling Council’s (RGC) Centre for the Advancement of Best Practices (CABP) issued the results of a new study in collaboration with the Ontario Gambling Research Society (OGRS). The study sought to determine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health and well-being of gamblers in Ontario. Moreover, the whitepaper aimed at determining the behavior of the gamblers, their financial stability, motives and concerns.
Overall, the study included 3 separate waves with surveys conducted between April and December 2020. Through analysis, the study assessed the changes in the gamblers’ behaviors and beliefs during the test period. Each of the waves included more than 2,000 gamblers, while 608 gamblers participated in all three waves. Each of the participants was age 18 or older.
Besides gamblers, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the lives of all Canadians. Various restrictions imposed to reduce the spread of the virus led to emergency measures such as capacity restrictions and closures of restaurants, bars, recreation centers and even public parks and playgrounds. Not unexpectedly, the land-based gambling venues also went through closures which in turn resulted in an increase in online gambling activities.
The Whitepaper Analyzed Gamblers’ Mental Health, Risk Level
According to the study, between Wave 1 and 2, “mental health concerns appeared to fluctuate throughout the pandemic.” In contrast, life satisfaction during that period “remained moderate and stable,” the whitepaper explains. Some 25% of the gamblers that participated in Wave 1 admitted to high levels of anxiety. However, that number decreased to 20% in Wave 2 and increased slightly to 21% in Wave 3. On the other hand, the study found that around 11% of the gamblers in each wave admitted to high levels of depression. Severe depression symptoms were observed especially in young adults, aged 18-24 years as well as Ontarian gamblers of South Asian descent.
Focusing on gambling risk levels, the study found that just under one out of ten gamblers was acknowledged as high risk of problem gambling based on a Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI). With that in mind, the study explained that “those at high risk of gambling problems were more likely to gamble online and the prevalence of high-risk gambling among online gamblers doubled from Wave 2 (12%) to Wave 3 (24%).”
The Pandemic Pushed Gamblers Online, Impacted Their Employment Situation
Not unexpectedly, the pandemic pushed gamblers to online gambling. The recent report revealed that gamblers who used to gamble in person before COVID-19 migrated to online gambling. During Wave 1 of the study, some 54% of the gamblers admitted that they started playing online since the initial lockdown imposed in March 2020. However, the percentage of gamblers significantly increased to 87% in Wave 3. Those gamblers admitted to playing online for the last three months.
“The COVID-19 pandemic continued to have a significant impact on Ontarian gamblers’ finances during the period of study, though the effects appeared to lessen over time,”
explains the recent report titled Gambling During COVID-19 in Ontario
The recent whitepaper outlined what was the financial impact of the pandemic on Ontarian gamblers. According to the report, in Wave 1 and Wave 2, approximately 29% of the gamblers admitted that their employment situation was impacted negatively by the pandemic. On the bright side, that negative effect decreased to 16% in Wave 3.