Risk Factors for Increased Online Gambling During COVID-19 Lockdowns in New Zealand: A Longitudinal Study
Bellringer, M; Garrett, N
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Recent research investigating changes in gambling behaviors during periods of COVID-19 social restrictions, such as enforced lockdowns, are somewhat limited by methodology, being generally cross-sectional in nature and with participant samples recruited via online panels. The present study overcame these limitations via a secondary analysis of data collected in 2012 and 2015 from a New Zealand (NZ) longitudinal gambling study, with questions related to gambling behaviors due to COVID-19 lockdown periods included in an additional data collection, of participants who had previously scored as a risky gambler, during 2020/21. Almost one-quarter of online gamblers increased their gambling during lockdown with this most likely to be on overseas gambling sites, instant scratch card gambling and Lotto. The only sociodemographic risk factor for increased online gambling was higher education. Behavioral risk factors included being a current low risk/moderate risk/problem gambler, a previously hazardous alcohol drinker or past participation in free-to-play gambling-type games. These past behaviors could act as trigger points for health services or family and friends to monitor a person’s gambling behaviors during lockdown, or future stressful periods when usual terrestrial gambling opportunities are curtailed or unavailable, and to support safer gambling practices.