The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the gambling industry through the temporary suspension of almost all sports codes world-wide, and the closure of hotels, clubs, casinos and betting shops, particularly during the period from 23 March 2020 to late May 2020.
This study sought to measure the change in gambling industry advertising and promotion strategies, and their impact on consumers. Data was collected from Twitter accounts and websites of four major wagering operators, and an online survey of 2,120 respondents which captured reported exposure to gambling advertising before and during the initial COVID-19 lockdown.
This study addressed four research questions:
What products did wagering operators advertise and promote during the COVID-19 lockdown period?
Due to the lack of live sporting events, the four operators focused on race betting and introduced marketing around sporting events they did not usually promote (like Russian table tennis and esports) and novelty betting (weather markets). Sports betting advertising was however still present.
Interestingly, three of the four operators tweeted responsible gambling messages more frequently before and during the lockdown.
What products did wagering operators advertise and promote as sports (particularly AFL and NRL) resumed, and as venues re-opened?
Tweeting about sports betting returned to pre-lockdown levels in the lead-up to the resumption of major competitions. Sports betting promotions were substantially reduced during the initial lockdown, but increased towards the end of lockdown.
How did these advertisements compare to pre-COVID advertising?
Three of the four operators reduced the number of betting promotions during lockdown compared to before.
Did consumers notice any changes to marketing during the COVID-19 lockdown period, compared to before the COVID-19 lockdown period?
Survey respondents generally recalled less frequent exposure to betting ads and promotions during the lockdown, compared to before the lockdown. This was the case for all media channels, forms of gambling, and types of promotions.
Respondents were significantly more likely to report that their expenditure had decreased due to advertisements during the lockdown, compared to beforehand.
Russell, Dr A, Hing, Prof. N 2021, Gambling advertising and promotions before, during and after the initial COVID-19 lockdown and sports shutdown in Australia, Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, Melbourne.