Online gambling operators are behaving greedily during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to a leading anti-gambling organisation.

Consumer data has shown that Australians have increased the amount of time they are spending using online gambling sites and one campaign group, the Alliance for Gambling Reform, have criticised the trend, calling on the government to bring in an online gambling advertising ban.

Speaking about the problem, Tim Costello of the Alliance, said that the advertising was targeting particularly young men who were bored, and pointed out that the UK sports betting industry had made a voluntary agreement not to advertise during the lockdown.

According to figures produced by analysts AlphaBeta and Illion, online gambling in Australia rose by almost 150% between April 26 and May 3. At the same time, consumer spending in general had risen 13% although it was still 7% lower than the pre-pandemic level. That boost in spending was believed to have been down to the one-off $750 support payment issued by the Australian government.

Since April, figures show that online gambling spending has varied, but has remained above 30% of normal spending. The data also shows that men are spending more money than women.

But according to Mr Costello, there is a silver lining to the pandemic, as it means that video poker (known as pokies in Australia) venues are closed. In fact, he estimates that Australians have saved as much as $1.5 billion since the lockdown started and is hopeful that this could have a long term effect:

“I think a lot of those people won’t go back. For the first time they’re saying ‘I’ve paid my rent, I’m not feeling ashamed of myself.'”

Online gambling usually makes up only $1.2 billion out of the $24 billion lost by Australians to gambling every year, with pokies responsible for $14 billion.

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