Google searches for online gambling have hit a new high, with experts linking the rise to COVID-19 restrictions.
Recent data from Google Trends shows searches for “online casinos Australia” and “online poker” have quadrupled since the pandemic was declared.
The biggest spike was recorded on March 22, the same day that thousands of clubs and gaming facilities were forced to close their doors in response to the government’s Stage One social distancing measures.
(Screenshot Google Trends)
Associate Professor Charles Livingstone from Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine, said the sudden jump in Google searches is only to be expected.
“There are a lot of people who are grateful they are shut because they are battling an addiction and not having them available means the temptation is taken out of the way,” he said.
“Then there is another group who will be stressed and find it difficult without the machines readily available, and will be undoubtedly looking for other alternatives.”
(Graphs: Emily Kowal)
For those confined to their homes, Professor Livingstone believes support services are more important than ever.
“I think there’s a lot to be said for looking at a whole new range of measures to reduce the effects of gambling advertising at this time, particularly for online gambling.
“Clearly they [online gambling platforms] are trying to take advantage of the fact that their terrestrial competitors – the pokies – are unable to compete with them at the moment.
“My suggestion would be that the health services need to ramp up the outreach. They need to be making sure that those people staying home, know what they need to do to get help.
Googling “online casinos” can lead to a flood of email messages promoting gambling. These are generally picked up by spam filters but should be moved to your Junk Folder. (Screenshots: Emily Kowal)
Professor Livingston says the potential for online gambling to get out of control is only heightened by the lack of regulation surrounding the online industry.
“The reality is, gambling online is still quite unregulated,” he said. “As Tim Costello used to say ‘you can lose your house without leaving it’ and since we’re all stuck in our houses at the moment I’m afraid people are going to do just that.”