Research Results on Australian Online Gambling:
A Pokies Players Poll
In 2020, Facts and Factors published a 110-page study illuminating the increasingly widespread popularity of online gambling and betting.
Based on their research, Facts and Factors estimated the global online gambling and betting market totaled about US$50 billion in 2019. They project the total will grow to US$100 billion within just a few years.
At the global level, the rising interest in online gambling and betting can likely be attributed to the increased availability of mobile platforms. According to Facts and Factors,
“Based on device type, mobile category is expected as the fastest-growing segment over the future years. In 2019, the revenue generated by mobile category was around USD 23 billion and is anticipated to grow due to the increasing adoption of smartphones in developed and developing countries.”
Now, factor in the global COVID-19 pandemic and closure of onsite casinos; it’s easy to see why online gambling has continued to surge around the globe.
Gamblers in Australia seem to follow these international trends. According to Gamblers Daily Digest, about 8 percent of Australians gamble via online platforms, and these bettors constitute about 5 percent of all global online gamblers.
Pokies in Australia
While global data on online gambling and betting provides some insight into the interests and habits of Australian bettors, it doesn’t show the whole picture. It’s also important to note that gambling data is difficult to come by, given the nature of this popular pastime and the wide variation in legal restrictions, even within the same country.
In an attempt to fill in some gaps in information and help uncover patterns in Australian online gambling habits, Pokies.bet aggregated data from blind surveys conducted by various online casinos. The “Pokies Players Poll” surveyed 400 online pokies players in Australia and posed questions about online gambling spending habits, online casino preferences, and the respondents’ motivations for gambling online.
The results of the Pokies Players Poll, paired with data from government-sponsored studies, can help Australia’s casino industry leaders understand how and why Australians gamble online and what improvements players want to see in the future.
Australian Online Gambling Demographics and Insights
Fifty percent of Pokies Players Poll respondents were female, a rising demographic in the world of online gambling. Compared to the men surveyed, the women reporting playing more cumulative hours.
GamCare, a leading gambling helpline based out of London, attributes the rise in female gamblers to the accessibility of mobile and online gambling. No longer do women have to battle the predominantly male world of betting, as 70 percent of female gamblers report using apps and websites. GamCare also reported that in the UK, women reporting gambling problems rose at twice the rate of men in 2014-2019.
Data from Australia shows that men are more likely to gamble than women, and when they do, they spend more. However, this research covered all forms of gambling, not just online.
Research suggests that the prevalence of online gambling platforms may draw in more young women. A 2018 study published in the Harm Reduction Journal, titled “Women’s Gambling Behaviour, Product Preferences, and Perceptions of Product Harm: Differences by Age and Gambling Risk Status,” surveyed 509 women from Victoria and New South Wales. The report read:
“Other studies suggest that there is an increase in younger women’s participation in gambling due to the social acceptance and normalisation of newer forms of gambling. For example, newer online forms of gambling may create a unique (and often blurred) dimension to the previous public/private spaces associated with female gambling, with women engaging in gambling at a much younger age (including adolescents).”
How Much Do Australians Spend at Online Casinos?
Of the Australian online gamblers surveyed in the Pokies Players Poll, 30 percent reported spending $500 or more on mobile or online gambling. This figure begs the question: how much are Australians winning (or losing) from online gambling?
The Australian Gaming Council reported that Australians lost $24.89 billion in 2017-2018—but bear in mind that this figure includes everything from pokies to scratch tickets.
The Australian Gaming Council also found that Australians spent an average of $1,017 per person on gaming, $177 per person on racing, and $62 per person on sports betting that year.
Furthermore, an H2 Gambling Capital survey found that Australia has the highest reported gambling losses per person globally. Australians lost an average of $1,324 per adult in 2017. The average loss for people from Hong Kong, who reported the second-highest losses, was 20 percent less.
Top 15 average gambling losses per adult ($US) in 2017
What Motivates People to Play Pokies Online?
Pokies are the average Australian gambler’s preferred choice of game. With $11 billion annually spent on machines, it’s no wonder online pokies see so much attention. Almost half of Pokies Players Poll respondents reported playing online pokies for pure entertainment. Stress relief was a close second, showing that most of those surveyed play pokies online for fun and enjoyment.
Of course, gambling wouldn’t be gambling if there was no chance of winning. Of those surveyed, 51 percent reported their primary motivation to play pokies online was to win money. Twenty-nine percent claimed pure entertainment as their motivation source, and 20 percent claimed bonuses and promotions to be their favorite part.
What Do Players Look for in Online Casinos?
The ease of online pokies, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, has players paying close attention to onsite features. Thirty-three percent of the Pokies Players Poll participants consider game selection to be the most important factor when choosing an online casino.
Bonuses are another reason certain pokies and pokies websites attract more players than others. For example, first-deposit promotions and bonuses attract players to double their initial investment for the chance at bigger winnings. In the Pokies Players Poll, 25 percent of respondents said bonuses attract them to play on specific websites.
The Pokies Players Poll also found that online pokies players value user support, winning, user experience, and banking features.
When it comes to banking, 50 percent of respondents indicated that an online casino’s banking system is one of their primary concerns. While online gambling laws are cloudy in Australia, many banks will still allow you to deposit directly to gambling websites via credit or debit card. There are also third-party e-wallet websites that will store your banking credentials.
According to Facts and Factors, “Major companies are offering different services in online gaming such as online payment methods including PayPal casino, visa casino, and Zimpler, which are fast and safe. These services may produce an opportunity for the growth of online gambling and betting market in the near future.”
How Has the Pandemic Affected the Casino Industry?
The COVID-19 pandemic brought a halt to many recreational activities, and gambling was no exception.
Casinos in Australia took just as big a hit as any other industry. But it wasn’t just physical casinos that were affected by shutdowns. The closure of race tracks, bingo halls, and bars that host lottery games also played a hand in turning more Australian gamblers to online platforms.
But while physical gambling establishments saw a significant lull in business, online gambling flourished. Research points to a significant increase in worldwide online gambling during the pandemic. For example, Global Poker estimates that the poker industry grew by 43 percent between April and October of 2021.
In May of 2020, the Australian Institute of Criminology published an in-depth analysis of how the COVID-19 pandemic affected online gambling habits.
This report cited research from AlphaBeta that showed a sharp increase in online gambling immediately following the shutdown. The AlphaBeta survey reported a 67 percent increase in Australian consumer transactions related to online gambling compared to the previous month.
However, as the pandemic dragged on and increasing financial concern set in, many players slowed down on online gambling. When asked about their gambling habits during the COVID-19 pandemic, some Pokies Players Poll survey respondents indicated a decline in play as the pandemic rolled on and attributed it to financial concerns.
In the midst of the economic unrest caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s too early to determine how the financial turmoil influenced online gambling habits.
Interestingly, a 2017 Frontiers in Psychology study of gambling in Iceland found that “during an economic recession people tend to continue or even increase their participation in lotteries but decrease their participation in casino type games, including EGMs.”
However, this data came from 2008-2011 during the Great Recession. At that point, smartphones were just starting to build mainstream popularity. Plus, there wasn’t a global health crisis component of this recession that limited participation at live casinos. It will be interesting to see how the data from the current financial crisis will compare to that of the 2008 Recession.
Projected Growth in the Pokies Industry
Global pandemic aside, the online pokies industry is expected to thrive and expand in the upcoming years. If the Facts and Factors projections come to pass, online gaming will be the fastest-growing segment of the industry.
The European Business Review predicts that the Australian gaming industry (including casinos and online casinos) will reach its maximum potential by 2025. However, unforeseeable circumstances (like the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and changes to gambling legislation) could throw off these projections. Online pokies players and online casino industry players alike should keep a close eye on financial forecasts and proposed legislation to assess the future of gambling in Australia.